Research Report


Mikkel Runge Olesen
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2017
Pages: 16
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 2-2)

    Global warming is gradually changing the rules in the Arctic. After centuries at the margins of global politics, the region was briefly propelled into global politics during the Second World War and during the Cold War, due to supply routes across the Atlantic and due to underwater sea-lanes and flight patterns across the Arctic region for nuclear armed vessels² – only to drift to the margins again when the Cold War confrontation ended. Now, once again, the region is attracting outside attention. This time, however, global interest in the Arctic is far more multifaceted. Thus, the region’s claim to importance...

  2. (pp. 3-6)

    At the military strategic level, the only possible dyad for conflict is between Russia and the West. Thus, with the exception of Russia, all littoral states are NATO allies creating a natural “lid” for how serious problems between the Western Arctic states are likely to get. The same applies to the EU. Even China, the most powerful non-arctic state to take an interest in the region, simply does not have the necessary presence in the Arctic for conflicts to escalate to the military level. So how likely is serious conflict in the Arctic between Russia and the West? Let us...

  3. (pp. 7-11)

    Though military conflict may be unlikely, the Arctic is still home to many unresolved disputes and divergent interests. Here, we will look at the sovereignty issues primarily between the Arctic Five as well as their economic interests in the Arctic before moving on to consider the Arctic interests of outsider countries.

    Central among these are the disputes over exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and extended continental shelf. According to UNCLOS (UN Convention on Law of the Sea), each country has the right to 200 nautical miles of EEZ beyond their territorial seas, and the right to apply for extended continental shelf...

  4. (pp. 12-12)

    So what are the current prospects for conflict in the Arctic? In military terms, it is, at present, very unlikely and the greatest sources of instability come from spill-over from outside the region rather than regional dynamics. No country has a greater interest in a stable Arctic than Russia, and while Russian economic vulnerability in the Arctic has made it a target for Western Ukraine-Crisis-related sanctions, cooperation in the Arctic region has thus far proved relatively resistant to such disruption. Neither a possible rush for Arctic resources, nor the outstanding sovereignty issues are likely to change that in the foreseeable...