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Arctic Yearbook 2012
(such as the legal rights accorded to the Arctic Ocean’s littoral states to make submissions to
claim, and thus utilize the resources, of the continental shelf of the Ocean) to keep states
‘cool’ and careful neither to break the ‘rules’ nor feel a need for a new or different regime.
The position of the Arctic states is, however, changing – changing for the second time since
the end of the Cold War, when stability and peace-building through international
cooperation became the ultimate aim instead of confrontation. There are two other
perspectives that deserve more attention and may enable an approach to Arctic geopolitics
that goes beyond the familiar terms of conflict and cooperation: first, a significant and rapid
environmental, geo-economic and geopolitical change has occurred in the Arctic region due
to climate change, and also because this vast, resource-rich region is under pressure for an
increased utilization of its rich (energy) resources. Second, the Arctic’s geo-strategic
importance is increasing, the region is playing a more important role in world politics, and
there is growing international and global interest toward the region, for example, by Asian
and European non-Arctic states.
Consequently, the Arctic states are on the one hand, more interested in and active in
exploiting the vast natural resources, particularly off-shore hydrocarbons, of the Arctic
region; and on the other hand, placing more strategic emphasis on (state) sovereignty,
particularly maritime sovereignty, and national interests linked to climate change or energy
security, as evidenced by the exclusive ministerial meetings of the Arctic Ocean states.
Taking this into consideration, a world-wide, global perspective is surprisingly little discussed
in most of the strategies, which is not due to ignorance, but is more tactical and
demonstrates some sort of deliberate calculation.
A final indicator and reflection of the newly enhanced importance of the Arctic region, and
partly as a response to multifunctional changes that have taken place in the region, is that all
eight Arctic states have in a short time period (within 2008-2011) approved their own
national strategy or state policies on Arctic and Northern affairs, setting national
priorities/priority areas and objectives, as this paper has shown. Further, the Arctic states
have (re)defined themselves as Arctic/Northern countries or nations, and would like to
become natural, real, or major, actors/players, or even (global) leaders or powers, in the
Arctic, or in some field of Northern affairs.