Malgorzata Smieszek and Paula Kankaanpää

In spite of its arguable relevance the question of the role of the chair in the Arctic Council (AC) has until now received relatively little academic attention. When in 2013 Canada assumed the AC chairmanship, which rotates on the biennial basis among the Council’s Members, the Arctic Council entered the second round of chairmanships, with the first one being over after sixteen years since the formation of the AC in 1996. In the meantime, in result of processes of climate change and globalization the Arctic region has gone through profound transformation and the United States, the AC Chair from 2015 to 2017, has evolved from one of the greatest opponents of the Council to its outspoken proponent. Yet most of the rules pertaining to chairmanship have remained intact since AC rules of procedure were adopted during the first AC Ministerial meeting in Iqaluit in 1998. What tasks do they assign to the Arctic Council chair? What is the actual role of AC the chairmanship? To address these questions, this article first looks into theoretical insights on the influence wielded by formal leaders in international cooperation and multilateral bargaining. It then turns its attention to origins of the institutional setup of circumpolar cooperation and continues with application of theory to rules and practice of the Arctic Council, complemented by inclusion of effects of the external developments on the course of the AC. In conclusion, it offers an initial assessment of the role exerted by the country chairing the Arctic Council.

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Kristin Bartenstein

This paper takes a closer look at the references to commonality, which are a salient, albeit ambiguous feature of the current discussion on Arctic governance. It does so from a legal perspective and with the purpose to unveil a twofold divide in the discussion. Legal and political purposes intersect and they vary depending on whether they are made from an Arctic or a non-Arctic perspective. Despite similar rhetoric, intentions may differ greatly and it is not unusual that different players refer to the law in irreconcilable or controversial ways. In a first step, the variety of references to commonality is charted and the underlying rhetorical strategies are carved out. In a second step, the references’ legal accuracy and their conceptual contribution to the development of a legal framework for Arctic cooperation are analysed. This should enable a better understanding of the diverging intentions and strategies at play in the discussion and the difficulties to reach a common understanding of how to govern the Arctic region.

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Ieva Bērziņa

The strained relations between the West and Russia regarding influence in Ukraine may lead to an increase in tension in other regions. The Arctic may become a potential zone of conflict due to its rich natural resources, new transportation routes, military significance, and unsolved territorial issues. The aim of this paper is to identify the governmental discourse of Russia’s top officials describing Russia’s state policy on the Arctic for foreign and domestic audiences. The paper focuses on the period from 2013 till 2015 when tensions in the relationship between Russia and the West increased due to the crisis in Ukraine. The units of analysis are public statements by senior officials of the Russian Federation in speeches and reports in the media. The major finding is that the Arctic should serve in Russian-Western rapprochement rather than becoming the next geopolitical hot spot.

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Reid Lidow

This paper explores the history behind today’s Arctic governance architecture, potential areas for realignments, and the analytical efficacy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a guiding analogue. Calling upon a vast body of scholarly work on Arctic governing regimes, the author identifies weaknesses and voids limiting the ability of Arctic states and, most critically, the Arctic Council as the governing nucleus, from harnessing historic regional momentum. Grounded by international relations theories on regionalism, regional security, functionalism, and international law, the paper serves to instruct both the international affairs scholar and the regional policy-maker. Where previous papers have looked to the Circumpolar South and the Antarctic Treaty System as an analogue, the author instead finds value in the ASEAN analogue and the parallel structures, actions, and passions therein. The paper closes with various policy prescriptions for the Arctic Council in cooperation with Arctic states, indigenous peoples, and the region’s vibrant epistemic community. The author’s analysis seeks to answer this paper’s guiding question: Considering the region’s history alongside existing governing structures, what is the most instructive analogue to guide further regional integration in the Arctic and how can these lessons be best applied?

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Ingrid A. Medby

Despite frequent reassurances that the Arctic region’s regime of governance rests soundly on two mutually reinforcing pillars: the Arctic Council intergovernmental cooperation and the international UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), doubt is still cast time and time again on the durability of Arctic peace and stability. Explanations for the regime’s strength are often based on classical theories of international relations, wherein traditional concepts of power-struggles ensure the relative benefit of state cooperation in the region. However, the case is here made that adherence to the present Arctic regime of governance is not just a matter of material or strategic importance for the eight so-called Arctic states. It is also a matter of status, pride, and identity; indeed, perceptions of a state’s role in the world are a powerful and often underestimated force in determining interstate relations.

Examining the specific case of one Arctic state, Norway, the paper explores how a state identity linked to the status granted by the current regime of governance guides political practices. This is done by drawing on a range of interviews with Norwegian state officials. For these, Arctic statehood is tied to political status, leverage, and legitimacy, thereby contributing to a positive selfperception and an advantageous international position. Furthermore, this is linked to pre-existing idea(l)s of ‘essential’ Norwegian history, culture, and values. Thus, through adopting a self-perception founded on the present Arctic regime of governance, the latter is discursively and normatively strengthened and reified, showing the potential potency of a political, state identity.

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Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen

A new chapter in Arctic relations opened when Danish diplomats submitted five boxes of evidence to the UN’s Commission of the Limits of the Continental Shelve (CLCS) in New York. Denmark’s claim to 895,000 km2 of Arctic seabed that includes the geographical North Pole surprised analysts by going all the way from Greenland’s northern boundary to the border of the Russian EEZ. The claim is likely to overlap with future Canadian and Russian claims. Observers soon warned that this could lead to an unfortunate Russian reaction and spark tensions between Moscow and Copenhagen. This article examines how the Canadian, Danish, and Russian claims may spark tensions between the Arctic states, based on a review of the Arctic studies literature. How does the UNCLOS process fit within the political dynamics of the region and does the Ukraine crisis make a peaceful agreement less likely? The article argues that the claims process is largely disconnected from the geopolitical logic of the region and there is no reason to expect it to cause significant tensions between the High North states. As several authors have pointed out, most resources are located outside of the disputed areas. Instead, the process is driven by domestic concerns. Ownership of the Arctic is symbolically important in all three states, albeit in different ways. Whereas Arctic ownership is crucial for both Canadian and Russian audiences, in Denmark the claims process has more to do with the complex Danish-Greenlandic relationship. However, the Ukraine crisis may disrupt this peaceful state of affairs. The crisis may alter the Putin regime’s power base and thus force Moscow to become more attentive to domestic voices that call for a more bellicose approach to the Arctic.

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