Anni Reissell, Hannu Halinen, Peter Lemke & Charlie Vörösmarty

In the age of globalization, the Arctic interacts with the rest of the world, and vice versa, in a complex manner—societally, economically, technologically, and environmentally. The complexity of the dynamic global system poses significant societal, research, policy and governance challenges for the Arctic. Then again, the Arctic has to be seen in a global context.

The Arctic is of increasing strategic interest, both regionally and globally, due to the opportunities as well as challenges brought about by the pronounced physical, biological as well as social and economic changes observed across this critical part of the Earth system. Much of the interest is either directly or indirectly centered on the Arctic as a key epicenter of global climate change—both in terms of the impacts on it as well as its reciprocal feedbacks on lower latitudes. Concern also arises from the huge economic potential of the Arctic, recoverable new energy resources across the region, and the possible opening and consequential expansion of important northern transportation sea routes.

Alexander Sergunin & Valery Konyshev

The outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis has spurred new accusations of Russia as being an aggressive and militarist power not only in East Europe but also in the Arctic (in addition to the charges brought earlier with regard to the planting of the titanium flag on the North Pole in 2007, resumption of naval and air patrols in the region and military modernization programs of the Russian conventional and nuclear forces deployed in the Far North). It was expected that in the wake of the crisis Moscow would dramatically increase its military activities and presence in the region as well as accelerate its military modernization programs. Some experts paid attention to the fact that Russia’s new maritime doctrine (July 2015) has identified the Arctic (along with the North Atlantic) as priority areas for the Russian navy.

Maarten de Sitter

In the light of its already full plate of responsibilities it was not surprising that the Alliance did not react collectively to the territorial Arctic claims Russia deposited in August 2015. Faced i.a. with Putin’s ongoing illegal action on the Alliance’s eastern flank, the deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan and threats to its southern member Turkey, finding a consensus in any way vis-à-vis High North issues is clearly not on NATO’s forefront.

This taciturnity however sends a bad signal, both to Vladimir Putin as well as to the Arctic nations, as it could be interpreted as a lack of interest. Bad PR, so to speak.

Fujio Ohnishi

Japan or Nihon in Japanese means a country from which the Sun rises. In general, the word Sun is often used as a metaphor for Japan. This commentary explains Japan's Arctic engagement by focusing on its three pillars, and also considers its policy prospects.

Japan's Arctic engagement has centered on three pillars, namely the pillars of diplomacy, science and business, although these pillars are self-sustained by ministries concerned rahter than coordinated among them. The oldest pillar is the diplomatic one, since it dates back to Japan's signing of the Svalbard Treaty in 1920. However, this pillar had been dormant until recent years. In July 2009, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) officially submitted its offer to be a permanent Observer to the Arctic Council. In March 2013, MoFA appointed an ambassador in charge of Arctic affairs. As a result of various diplomatic efforts, Japan was admitted to Observer status of the Arctic Council in May 2013.

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