How do we preserve the Pax Arctica?

21CQ: The Future of the Arctic



7 years ago

What can be done to preserve a legal-diplomatic logic among Arctic powers in their engagements on Arctic questions?


Leonid Kosals7 years ago

Мне кажется, лучший способ сохранить правовую логику в отношениях арктических государств – это следовать модели правового режима Антарктики. Эта модель хотя и возникла во времена холодной войны в 50-е годы, однако предполагает замораживание территориальных претензий стран друг к другу, а также демилитаризацию любой деятельности и отношений государств. Начать следовало бы с проведения представительной международной конференции с участием членов Арктического совета и ряда заинтересованных государств под эгидой ООН, посвященной правовому статусу Арктики и создания механизмов демилитаризации и сотрудничества.


Rob Huebert7 years ago

The most alarming part of the question is that it may be impossible to preserve a legal-diplomatic logic or even worst that it may not be in the best interests of the western states to do so. The very recent signs that President Putin is determined to use military force to split off even more of the Ukraine is very troubling. Despite the costs that he has faces in regards to his actions in the Crimea and other parts of the Ukraine, it seems that he is determined to use whatever means possible to realign the borders of the Ukraine with Russia. If this does represent a return to a much darker past of the Soviet/Russian history, the other Arctic states need to think very carefully the results of proceeding with a “business as usual” attitude in the Arctic. If Putin is moving in this direction, it is in his interest to keep all other regions of interest for Russia separate from what he is doing in the Ukraine. This has always been the means of minimizing the cost for the use of aggressive military actions by the aggressor. Such leaders will always count on the interests of the other states in the international system to look to protect their interests elsewhere to allow themselves to act with minimal costs when using military force to gain their objectives. 


The question that the other Arctic states need to ask is what is the best means for countering this renewed aggressiveness of Russia to return it to its cooperative polices of the 1990s and early 2000s. It is not about preserving the legal-diplomatic logic for its own sake, but rather containing a Russian return to military policies that all had hoped was a bad memory. If this new aggressiveness cannot be contained, then the other arctic states will need to decide how best to ensure their own long-term security. For Canada and the United States, this may mean a recommitment to improving their northern aerospace defences. For the “neutrals” – Finland and Sweden – this may mean full membership in NATO. All such actions will undoubtedly provoke further negative action on the part of the Russians and eliminate any hope of maintaining the Pax Arctica as we now know it.


But this is the crux of the problem. If Russia is becoming more aggressive and willing to use military force to achieve it objectives as witness by its current actions in the Ukraine, then what choice do the other Arctic states have but to look to their own security? The inevitable outcome will be a return to an Arctic security regime that no one want. So ultimately the question is not about the preservation of the Pax Arctica, but an alteration of the “new” Russian military policies. Convince the Russian leadership that what it is doing in the Ukraine is not in the long-term interest of all arctic states and then we can return to the Pax Arctica of the 1990s and early 2000s. Fail to do so, and the Pax Arctica will fail on its own.     




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