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Arctic Yearbook 2012
became synonymous with Arctic shipping, thus raising unprecedented security
apprehensions around the world.
Melting ice was not the only security issue of 2007. The Russian
expedition was a
coup d’éclat
that stunned the post-Cold War world. Images of a “fifteen century
expansionist Russia – embodied by political activist and polar explorer Artur Chilingarov, a
Russian titanium flag, and two mini submersibles – provided an exceptionally dramatic
scene. Associated to the impacts of climate change, it added rhetorical value to the notion of
an “Arctic Race” for untapped resources.
All of these perceived accumulated events have potential implications on foreign policy
decisions and need to be taken into consideration when exploring the French discourse
relating to the Arctic. Our brief assessment looks at this period (2007-2012) that coincides
with the beginning of the IPY (and consequently reports for the Senate/National Assembly
on the state of France in the Arctic), the Sarkozy presidency, the French presidency of the
EU and the appointment of Michel Rocard as the very first French polar ambassador.
Towards an Arctic Treaty
Presented as a region undergoing major transformations, the Arctic has been framed as an
area in the world requiring a new sense of responsiveness by state actors (Major and
Steinicke, 2011: 10). In 2007 and 2008, French Senator Christian Gaudin released two major
reports on France’s interests and roles at both poles (“La place de la France dans les enjeux
internationaux de la recherche en milieu polaire: le cas de l’Antarctique”
and “Faut-il créer
un observatoire de l’Arctique”). Prepared for the Senate and the National Assembly,
Gaudin’s reports concluded that the High North was “becoming increasingly accessible for
the development of economic activities. The Northwest and Northeast Passages, as well as
the natural resources of the Arctic and the Antarctic regions are important issues” (Gaudin,
The Senator produced key recommendations for French foreign policy makers. He first
observed that France’s presence in both polar regions “suffer[ed] from a lack of direction
and permanency” (Gaudin, 2007). The Senator therefore advised the newly elected President
Nicolas Sarkozy to “reorganize France’s presence in the polar regions [by] appoint[ing] a
coordinator for the French presence at the two poles, by assigning this mission to either the