John Woitkowitz

Cartographies of the Arctic are powerful instruments to support legal, political, commercial, and scientific claims and interests in the region. Polar projections on sea ice extension, the distribution of natural resources or the state of ocean currents in the Arctic, for example, are critical indicators for the future of the region. At the same time, natural scientific categories to describe the Arctic are products of historical processes in the production of geographical knowledge; they are not eternal givens. As disciplines such as oceanography, meteorology or hydrology emerged as fields of professional study during the nineteenth century, new theoretical and visual vocabularies equipped explorers and cartographers with the language of natural science to relate the regions and their representation in maps to the geopolitical, commercial, and scientific interests of nineteenth-century European and North American states. Grounded in historical data and archival research, this article discusses how such cartographies re-defined the Arctic region, how they generated a surge in Arctic expeditions, and how they continue to inform modern understandings of the region, one predominantly perceived as a region of nature. Specifically, this article discusses the theory of an Open Polar Sea—a body of navigable, ice-free water in the central Arctic Ocean—as a consequential re-envisioning of the central Arctic and a generator of scientific agendas of Arctic exploration across Europe and North America that, in turn, informed contemporary field science such as the recent MOSAiC expedition.

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Hallbera West

The Arctic is undergoing a process of political region building, including an institutional development of the Arctic Council. Also, the region is attracting attention from a multitude of actors and institutions, including the world’s superpowers. A country facing implications related to this development is the Faroe Islands. The increasing attention towards the Faroe Islands is familiar considering previous Cold War experiences. However, the de-facto autonomy and internal institutional development within the Faroese sub-state unit means that the situation today is different. Thus, Arctic development calls for political attention. This article focuses on the opportunities for the Faroe Islands not only as a sub-state unit but also as a micro sized political unit to conduct foreign policy activity related to Arctic development and to what extent the political system in fact is responding and addressing the development. The expectation is that considering the increase in the salience of Arctic related issues the Faroese political system to a higher degree prioritizes Arctic related issues compared to a decade ago. The article shows that despite formal limitations there still is room for foreign policy manoeuvres and despite limited capacity the political system still has prioritised to develop relevant competences to facilitate foreign policy related activity. The investigation shows that today the political system to a higher extent responds to Arctic development, especially on the governmental level, but also to some extent on the parliamentary level and even on the political party level.

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Onur Limon

To date, Turkey has been cautious with its Arctic policy creation and enforcement. In so many ways, this is not surprising in that its regional role is rather low due to being a non-Arctic state. However, in recent years, Turkey’s interest in the region has increased. Turkey, following the logic of some other non-Arctic countries, is not positioning itself as a “near-Arctic” state or a “vertical Arctic nation”. The main arguments for Turkey’s interest in the Arctic may be associated to Turkey’s geographic location, culture and history. In addition, Turkey’s interest in the Arctic entails five main elements: (1) international cooperation and science diplomacy, (2) climate change and the environment, (3) Arctic Council observer membership, (4) economic opportunities, and (5) security. Turkey’s policy towards the Arctic is divided into three periods: (1) from the foundation of the Republic to the end of the Second World War; (2) from the beginning to the end of the Cold War, when Turkey was a member of NATO; and (3) the post-Cold War era. Turkey is interested in the Arctic for scientific, political, and economic reasons. The article aims to examine the reasons for Turkey’s Arctic policy and interests. The importance of Turkey’s participation in the region is discussed from a historical perspective. During the preparation of the article, comprehensive research was carried out on documents from the Presidency State Archives.

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Sanna Kopra & Liisa Kauppila

This paper analyses the normative underpinnings of China’s participation in processes of Arctic regionalization. Building on Gareth Evans’ concept of responsible international citizenship, it argues that China’s Arctic engagement is chiefly motivated by the government’s efforts to promote the wellbeing of Chinese citizens – a state of affairs that the current regime equals with the ideal of social stability. As a responsible international citizen, China should, however, advance this “enlightened self-interest” vis-á-vis other members of the Arctic international society, that is, either internalize the established practices that organize the Arctic region or mold them in peaceful ways. In the empirical parts of the paper, we first identify three concrete aims that drive forward China’s participation in Arctic regionalization – creating wealth through more “green” growth, mitigating the effects of climate change on China, and promoting a unifying ideology. We then suggest that China has not directly violated any of the key organizing principles of the Arctic international society, but it has found distinct ways to act out these concrete goals and advance the wellbeing of its citizens. Such means include somewhat challenging the dominant interpretation of these norms and refraining from advocating stricter environmental standards.

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Christopher Weidacher Hsiung & Camilla T.N. Sørensen

China wants to ensure its role as a major stakeholder in the Arctic, and improving Chinese technological capabilities play a prominent albeit complex role in this endeavour as a means both to strengthen China’s attractiveness in the eyes of the Arctic states and stakeholders and to ensure that China is able to establish a presence in the region and access its resources. However, development and application of Chinese technology in the Arctic is also an end in itself. Beijing defines the polar regions, the seabed and the outer space as “new strategic frontiers” (zhanlüe xin jiangyu) understood as the most challenging – but also most rewarding – areas to operate in, which relates not narrowly to the tangible Arctic resources to be extracted, but also to the pressure Chinese entities in the region are under to advance their knowledge and improve their technological capabilities and solutions. This further links China’s Arctic engagement with its national development strategy, where ensuring China a frontrunner position within new technologies is a key priority, as well as with China’s broader geo-strategic visions and plans.

The article has two main contributions. Firstly, it scrutinises the role of technology in China’s Arctic engagement and shows how it is best viewed as a long-term process. Secondly, the article highlights how the intensifying US-China great power rivalry in recent years has led to a pragmatic adjustment in China’s approach and tactics in the region, characterised by what we call Chinese “tactical retreat”. Following the “China’s Arctic engagement as a long-term process” argument, the key point is that establishing Chinese presence and influence in the Arctic will continue to be a persistent Chinese priority, but Beijing is able and willing to scale down and keep a lower profile when assessed as strategically beneficial. This underscores how China’s Arctic engagement has become more confident and sophisticated over the recent decade.

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Sergey Sukhankin, P. Whitney Lackenbauer & Troy Bouffard

In late October 2020, President Vladimir Putin approved the “Strategy for the Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and Ensuring National Security for the Period through 2035.” Although the casual observer might dismiss this document as yet another Arctic strategy recasting old ideas with fresh rhetoric, the importance of the timing and substance of this Russia strategy is not lost on Arctic observers. The Russian government sequentially released three major Arctic national documents in 2020 that lay out direct requirements and intent across political, military, economic, social, and environmental security sectors. Concurrently, the Kremlin decisively arranged its Arctic political leadership and national advisory groups. Throughout, Russian leadership effectively scripted Arctic national priorities and developed them into narratives, which were synchronized across relevant sectors.

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