The Arctic has become the focus of increasingly fevered strategic attention amid rising global great power competition and accelerating climate change that is raising expectations of new oil and gas riches, easier access to mineral resources and short-cut sea routes. For most of the three decades since the end of the Cold War, the Arctic has been a zone of low tension, a glacial oasis of multilateral cooperation and a geopolitical backwater. That has changed somewhat due to Russia’s 2014 military action in Ukraine, China’s increasingly assertive global reach, declaring itself a “near-Arctic state”, and the United States’ aggressive denunciation of perceived threats by both powers to security in the Arctic.
Recent tension has focused on the European Arctic – from Greenland to Russia’s Kola peninsula and Yamal oil and gas fields. The United States and NATO feel threatened by the modernisation of Russia’s Northern Fleet, missile capabilities and deep-diving submarines and have responded by staging demonstrative war games in Norway and the Barents Sea, as well as by upgrading anti-submarine warfare aircraft and sea patrols, refurbishing airfields and pre-positioning equipment in or near the Arctic. Yet the five Arctic coastal states have adhered scrupulously to a 2008 agreement to resolve all overlapping continental shelf claims by negotiation through the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and Arctic nations have struck a range of practical agreements in the last decade on fisheries, maritime safety, search and rescue and environmental protection.
- What strategic role can and should the EU play in the Arctic? Does the integrated EU policy for the Arctic provide sufficient tools to play an active role?
- How does the acceleration of climate change in the region impact human security, notably of the indigenous peoples, as well as shipping, fisheries and the accessibility of new resources?
- Will increased great power competition and new developments in military technology be potential triggers for conflict in the region?
- How should international organisations such as NATO and the Arctic Council address changing political dynamics and increasing security risks?
The study complements six similar studies on France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, Italy and Transatlantic defence cooperation.
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Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence at Friends of Europe and Contributing Editor to Politico
With reactions from
EU Special Envoy for Arctic Matters
Director of the Global Risk and Resilience Program and Polar Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington DC
Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence at Friends of Europe and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for emerging security challenges at NATO
Michael Mann has twenty years of experience working in EU affairs. Prior to taking on the role of EU Special Envoy for Arctic matters/Ambassador at Large for the Arctic, he served as the EU’s Ambassador to Iceland. He was also Head of Strategic Communications at the European External Action Service, Chief Spokesperson for High Representative Catherine Ashton, and the European Commission Spokesperson. He began his career in Brussels as a journalist, working for the Financial Times, Reuters and Bloomberg News, among other media.
Michael Sfraga has spent most of his life living in and exploring Alaska and the Arctic. His work focuses on the policy implications of a changing Arctic and Antarctic. He has served as Board member and Chairman of the Institute of the North, the University of the Arctic’s Head of Delegation to the Arctic Council, and Co-Lead Scholar for the inaugural Fulbright Arctic Initiative. Sfraga also works with many national and international organisations such as the Munich Security Conference, UArctic, and the US Department of State.
Retiring from NATO in September 2018 after 38 years at the organisation, Jamie Shea has occupied a number of senior positions at NATO across a wide range of areas, including external relations, press and media, and policy planning. As NATO’s spokesperson, he was the face of the Alliance during the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts. He later worked as the Director of Policy Planning in the private office of former Secretary General Rasmussen during the preparation of NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept. Shea is also a regular lecturer and conference speaker on NATO and European security affairs.
Paul is a Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe and the author of Friends of Europe’s European Defence Cooperation report series. A Paris-based journalist, he also writes the “Europe at Large” column for Politico. He previously spent four decades working for Reuters as a foreign correspondent in Paris, Tehran, Bonn and Brussels, as bureau chief in Israel/Palestine, Berlin and Brussels, as chief correspondent in France, as diplomatic editor in London, and finally as European affairs editor. His assignments have included covering the Iranian revolution, the Cold War Euromissile crisis, the 1991 Gulf War, German reunification, the Maastricht summit, France in the 1990s, EU enlargement, the Eurozone crisis and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt.
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