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Research Topics

Actors and patterns of cooperation and conflict
Russia, Norway and the High North - Past, Present, Future
The United States in the 21 Century Arctic
Defining an Interest: The European Union and the High North
The Power of Energy
Law of the Sea and Ocean Governance
Climate Change and Environmental Protection

Russia, Norway and the High North - past, present, future

Premliminary findings of the Russia, Norway and the High North work package (January 2011, by work package leader Sven Holtsmark, IFS) 


  • How can your research contribute to an assessment of the geopolitical significance of the region in the 21st century, to a precise description of the geopolitical constellation in the region, and to an understanding of the dynamics of change in the geopolitical situation of the region?

    Research in WP 2 has a continuous focus on military-strategic developments in the High North, with particular emphasis on the Russian Northern Fleet and its role in Russian strategic thinking and posture. Research includes assessments of long-term developments, including the prospects for the implementation of plans for the development of Russian blue-water capabilities. The outcome of these processes will be one key factor in the evolution of the geopolitical situation of the region.
  • What assumptions have you made about global developments and their impact in the region in the relevant time horizon?

    Global developments are outside the main focus of WP 2 research. However, developments in the Russian High North is seen within the framework of Russia’s overall foreign and military policy priorities.
  • Who are the most important actors, and what are their agendas and interests in the region that are relevant to the scope of your work? Which historical experiences and other factors drive their interests, and which interests drive their policies?

    WP 2 focuses on two state actors, Norway and Russia, their policies and interaction in the High North. Thus, the WP does not aim at establishing a hierarchy of other actors, but includes research on Russia’s and Norway’s relations with other actors present in the region. The issues of historical experiences and drivers, and the link to interests and policies, will be explored broadly in the monograph.
  • How will your research illuminate existing and potential areas of conflict and cooperation in the region?

    WP 2 publications address directly the prospects for conflict versus cooperation in the High North and the Arctic. Recent programme publications have reinforced the findings from 2009 output that the actors’ common interest, for several pragmatic reasons, in maintaining regional stability provides a strong counterbalance to potential sources of conflict. All state actors demonstrate strong support for the legal and institutional framework of High North and Arctic governance. Detailed analyses of the evolution of relevant Russian policy documents unequivocally points in the same direction.
  • How can existing or alternative models of governance, including existing institutions and frameworks of international law or regulations, contribute to coping with the challenges in the region?

    WP 2 research confirms that Russia, despite at times heavy-handed rhetoric, emphasises the role of UNCLOS as the overarching legal framework for Arctic governance and resources distribution and management. The recent Norwegian-Russian agreement on delimitation in the Barents Sea illustrates the point. WP 2 research at the same time documents the potential and continued need for bilateral solutions to supplement multilateral arrangements. Norway and Russia, which are at the focus of WP 2, agree that the existing institutional and legal framework is sufficiently flexible to serve as the basis for further institutional and legal arrangements.
  • How will your research highlight elements of continuity and change?

    WP research emphasises a high degree of continuity in Russian strategic culture and in Russia’s basic understanding of the role of the High North and Arctic in Russia’s strategic posture, inter alia as a key area for the deployment of the country’s nuclear arsenal. Thus, Russia continues to object to the involvement in Arctic issues of NATO or other Western security structures. On the Norwegian side, the heavy official emphasis on High North policy as a major strategic element in the countries foreign and domestic policies cannot avoid including a military component. However, the elements of change are not less striking. Military land and naval forces present in the High North and the Arctic are dramatically reduced compared to the late Cold War period. Russia has published plans for a significant military build-up in the High North and the Arctic, but it remains to be seen when, and to what degree, these plans will be realised. Some of the four Arctic NATO-member states have published modest plans for modernisation or strengthening of their military presence in the Arctic, but still within a very limited framework.
  • What implications do your research findings have for Norway, for Norwegian interests and for future Norwegian policy options in the region?

    Understanding Russian policy behaviour, and the dynamics of Norwegian-Russian interaction, remains a key factor for the elaboration of Norwegian policy, in the High North as elsewhere. Thus, research-based interpretations of the long-term tendencies of Russian High North policies, including elements of continuity of change, directly impact on Norwegian foreign and security policy priorities. WP interpretations of Russian High North policy confirms the existence of a wide range of areas for developing Norwegian-Russian cooperation. They also point to the continued need for Norway to explore bilateral solutions with Russia when appropriate and possible, at the same time securing the presence and commitment of additional state actors.
  • How does your research relate to the other research areas in the programme?

    WP 2 research, with its emphasis on Russian strategic thinking on the High North and the Arctic, has direct bearing on other work packages, in particular WP ?? (energy) and WP ?? (legal etc). For instance, WP 2 research has documented the increasing role of issues of natural resources in the rationale for the further development of the Russian Northern Fleet. Similarly, research in other WPs document additional elements of interdependence between actors in the High North and the Arctic, thus reinforcing the underlying argument in WP 2 research of the strength of forces of cooperation versus those of conflict.


©2014-2017 Geopolitics in the High North. All rights reserved

Norwegian Institute for defence Studies CSIS Fritjof Nansen Institute Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik University of Tromsø Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the MFA of Russia University of Oslo Institute of general history Norwegian Defence Research Establishment Econ Pöyry
  The GeoPolitics in the High North research programme is now terminated, and the programme website will be preserved through 2016, but not updated.
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