States are torn between securing national sovereignty and cooperation between neighbours.
No other region of the world is likely to be as important a geopolitical game-changer as the Arctic. The melting ice opens up huge logistical prospects and enhances the value of territories north of the Arctic Circle because of the access they provide to untapped natural resources. Many issues are being agreed by the eight members of the Arctic committee , although of these it is Russia, Canada and the United States that are seeking to exert the most influence in the region. Let us examine the Arctic strategy being pursued by these three countries.
article / Martín Biera Muriel
The Arctic Circle comprises 6% of the Earth's total surface, covering 21 million square kilometres. As temperatures rise and the effects of global warming worsen, the Arctic ice sheet is shrinking, revealing an area rich in raw materials and natural resources, and increasing its strategic importance for the maritime connection between Europe and Asia. This has made the Arctic a region of great geopolitical significance in the 21st century International Office .
Agencies from various countries, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US National Snow & Ice Data Center, as well as international organisations and companies of different nationalities, point out that the ice cover on the Arctic shelf has been considerably reduced due to the consequences of climate change and rising temperatures. This allows states with sovereignty over these waters and islands easy access to the region, providing an opportunity for the exploitation of oil, natural gas, minerals, fisheries, shipping and tourism.
As early as 2008, the US Geological Survey estimated that the Arctic contained approximately 240 billion barrels of oil and natural gas, a figure that constitutes about 10 per cent of the world's existing resources; this does not take into account the amount of resources that, for practical reasons, have not yet been discovered. In total, it is estimated that undiscovered resources would comprise 16% of the world's oil reserves, 30% of the world's gas reserves and 26% of the world's natural gas reserves; about 84% of these resources are offshore. Estimates suggest that 10 trillion barrels of oil and 1.55 quadrillion cubic metres of natural gas may exist in the Arctic subsurface.
The Arctic committee
The Arctic committee , established in 1996, is a high-level intergovernmental forum for policy discussions on issues common to the governments of the Arctic states and their inhabitants. It is the only circumpolar forum for policy discussions on Arctic issues. All Arctic states are members, with the active participation of their indigenous peoples. It has eight members: Iceland, Denmark, Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Norway and Finland. In terms of its functioning, it is divided into different groups of work and task forces, each of which has its own fields of action and functions. Thus, there is the Artic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP), whose function is to promote mechanisms for states to reduce pollutant emissions, or the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group (EPPR), which seeks to protect the environment from possible accidental releases of pollutants. Although their presence is very limited, it is worth noting that on numerous occasions the different task forces and groups of work have managed to achieve the objectives they had planned, such as, for example, a reduction in CO2 emissions.
Of the eight countries that are part of the Arctic committee , Canada, the United States and Russia have the most influence in the region. What strategies are each of them pursuing?
Canada: more means to patrol the waters
For Canada, the Arctic is not only central to its national identity, but represents a potential for the country's future, especially in subject geopolitics. The Canadian government sees the Arctic as a area of opportunities and challenges, which it groups into four areas: exercising its sovereignty, promote the development economic and social, protecting the environment, and improving its governance in the northern regions. These four pillars of Canada's Arctic policy are manifold: resolving territorial disputes, maintaining sovereignty and security in the Arctic territory, promote the conditions for sustainable development and addressing governance of emerging issues such as public safety or pollution, among others.
Since 2007, Canada has strengthened its defence efforts to ensure sovereignty over its Arctic territory. That year it announced measures to increase its capabilities in the area, which have included the launch of the RADARSAT-2 satellite to monitor the Arctic and the deployment of 1,500 troops to patrol Arctic waters. For the latter role, icebreakers and maritime patrols have been added. The government also announced increased investment in the Canadian Ranger Corps to improve its presence in the area and to work with the North American Aerospace Defence Command to monitor Canada's northern airspace.
United States: Pentagon sets out its Arctic Strategy
US activity in the Arctic, a region to which it has belonged since the purchase of Alaska, encompasses a broad spectrum of activities, from resource extraction and trade to science and national defence operations. The strategy of the US Arctic Defence department is to maintain a secure and stable region, where US interests are safeguarded and its sovereign space protected, and where nations work together to address a range of challenges, including, most notably, climate change. The US strategy has two objectives:
Ensuring and supporting security and promote defence cooperation.
Prepare for a wide range of challenges and contingencies.
In addition, the department Defence stated in a document called Arctic Strategy that these objectives should be achieved through innovative approaches, with low budget and through multilateral exercises with other countries, such as the Search and Rescue Exercise. To achieve these goals, the Defence department set out a number of strategies: exercising sovereignty in its territory, engaging public and private sector entities to improve domain awareness in the Arctic, partnering with other Departments, agencies and nations to support human and environmental security, and so on. The department Defence, at partnership with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, developed an analysis and reporting programme to monitor regional activity and anticipate future trends so that future investments can sustain human activity in the region over time.
Russia: more coastline, greater access to resources
Russia is the polar state with the longest coastline, which gives it much greater access to certain resources, such as oil, than other countries, including Canada, which is the second most coastal polar state. In recent months Russia has seen an increase in natural resource production in the Arctic, especially hydrocarbons. It is worth noting that international sanctions over the Crimean crisis have meant a challenge for Russian production, which is why the Arctic is core topic for its development. Russia' s policy in the North Pole is based on two levels, military and defence, with the following objectives:
Use the resources in the region, mainly oil and gas, to promote Russia's economic development .
Maintain the Arctic as a zone of peace and cooperation.
Preserving ecology in the Arctic.
The northern route to be recognised as a transport route.
On the military side, the need to maintain troops in case of attack in the region continues. instructions In recent years Russia has therefore developed radar systems to monitor its domain, and has also encouraged the construction of small military airfields, ports and airfields to protect its territory. Notably, the port city of Severomorsk is home to the headquarters of the North Sea Fleet, one of the world's largest submarine fleets and the world's only nuclear Wayside Cross , called Peter the Great.
Notwithstanding this emphasis on military and defence issues, Russia also proposes the option of reaching agreements with other Arctic states, regardless of their size, to enhance cooperation.
Environment, development economic, defence
The elaboration of specific Arctic strategies by the countries present in the region shows that area is a relevant scenario for geopolitics and International Office in the 21st century. The states involved move on two levels: that of cooperation with their neighbours, in matters such as environmental protection and commitment to a sustainable economic development , and that of defence of their own interests, particularly in terms of ensuring sovereignty over their Arctic territories and preserving the rights that these may grant them in a future shared exploitation of the area .
If we look at the theories of International Office, the Arctic states play on the realist plane of taking positions vis-à-vis others, thinking about any future competition, and at the same time on the liberal plane of willingness to cooperate and jointly solve problems.