Thematic network on geopolitics and security: A brainstorming session on how to maintain peace & stability, and continue constructive cooperation in the Arctic
The Thematic Network (TN) on Geopolitics and Security, with expertise on IR / Political sciences, Geopolitics, Security studies, Strategic studies, Political geography, Environmental politics, Human & Environmental security, had in spring 2022 a brainstorming session on how to maintain peace & stability, and continue constructive cooperation across borders in the Arctic region
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has opened a Pandora’s box of consequences across the globe, also affecting Arctic governance. The seven remaining Arctic states have temporarily suspended all Arctic Council-related activities. The temporary pause on meetings of the Council and its subsidiary bodies does not mean a withdrawal or a reconstitution of the Council but with the ongoing war in Ukraine the future of Arctic cooperation is highly unpredictable.
Russia’s special military operation1 in Ukraine has radically changed an international discourse on the prospects of cooperation and security in Arctic region. In contrast with the post-Cold war understanding of the Arctic as a region of peace and cooperation, today one can observe a clear shift to confrontation between the West and Russia. There is no obvious answer if it is possible to return to an atmosphere of cooperation in the Arctic while military conflict in Ukraine is unpredictable in scale, duration, and consequences. Based on the global significance of the Arctic and historical cooperative experience it seems that is still possible to keep cooperation in the less politicized area – scientific cooperation (Arctic science diplomacy).
Arctic research in 2022
In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. It is impossible to paint an overall picture of the future environment and climate change in the Arctic without information on Russia, which occupies a large area of the Arctic. Researchers are struggling to find ways to conduct political and environmental research.
Arctic science has been promoted under the auspices of peace. However, this is difficult to maintain. The International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), which promotes Arctic science, was also established in 1990. At the end of the 1980s, when the Cold War was ongoing, the idea of promoting collaboration among scientists emerged, leading to the establishment of the IASC. Founded in 1990, easing Cold War tensions and a more peaceful world have boosted science. Simultaneous to IASC, the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) was launched, leading to the subsequent establishment of the Arctic Council (AC). Environmental protection is an expected benefit for the Arctic region. This is a common global problem.
Nicholas Parlato, Christopher Kiyaseh, Nadezhda Filimonova, Daniel Ziebarth & Yu Cao
On Thursday, October 20th, scholars, policy makers, and government officials met for the NSFsponsored workshop, on Strategic Ambition and Environmental Constraint: a Conference-Workshop on the Impact of Rapid Environmental Degradation on the Security Strategies of Arctic States. This conference was designed to facilitate cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary discussion on the emerging and intersecting threats to diverse forms of security in the Arctic. Specifically, it aimed to emphasize the preeminence of climatic and environmental security in the Arctic domain, which due to rapid and accelerating changes in the cryosphere have an outsized impact on other elements of security, namely national, food, and human security. In this commentary we, the graduate student fellows invited to the conference, share our observations and commentary on the day’s proceedings.
Steven E. Miller
During the Cold War, the Arctic was a significant arena for strategic competition and was an important factor in the nuclear rivalry between the superpowers. The Soviet Northern Fleet was based on the Kola Peninsula, in a basing infrastructure near Murmansk. This fleet, and particularly the Soviet Union’s large number of nuclear-powered attack submarines, represented a worrisome threat to NATO sea lanes in the North Atlantic that would be crucial conduits of sea-borne reinforcements in any NATO-Warsaw Pact war in the center of Europe that did not end quickly. In addition, most of the Soviet Union’s nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) were also based on the Kola Peninsula and used northern waters, including the Arctic Ocean, as operational staging areas when on deployment. Particularly as improvements in the accuracy and lethality of nuclear delivery systems made land-based forces increasingly vulnerable, Moscow’s seabased nuclear forces came to be regarded as its most survivable nuclear assets, the heart of its deterrent capability. Hence, ensuring and enhancing the survivability of its ballistic missile submarines was for Moscow a very high, even essential, priority.