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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
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The United States in the 21 century Arctic



This project will examine US policies towards the Arctic region, with special attention to the European High North. Until 1990 the High North played an important role in the geopolitics of the United States, but American interests in the region fell steeply after the end of the Cold War. However, this may change. The US National Security Council is now preparing a review of US policy in the Arctic. That might lead to a reappraisal of US interests in the region. At least in a short and medium term perspective, we might assume that US ambitions to contain the resurgent Russia will be the most decisive factor in shaping US geopolitics of the Arctic in general, and the European High North in particular.

US relations with NATO are crucial, especially from a European and a Norwegian point of view. Seeing US interests in the High North within US global strategic assessments form the background for understanding US policies in the region. However, after the end of the Cold War, the scholarly interest for US strategic interests in the High North has been limited. Thus, there is a need for new studies, taking recent developments into account. The following main research problems will be addressed:

  • What are the interests of the United States in the Arctic, and how will they change as the area becomes more accessible for economic exploitation and transport?
  • What are potential meeting-points and areas of cooperation between the United States, Norway and other nations in the High North?
  • Are there areas for more extensive cooperation?
  • Are there areas of potential conflict?
  • How does the United States view the High North within a global strategic security framework?
  • How does the United States view the significance of multilateral security cooperation in the region, especially with respect to NATO, and, in this connection, Norway?
  • To what extent can we expect major changes in US policy on these issues in the future?

 



Researchers on the US in this work package are:

For more information and contact details - please, see "About us" at the main menu.

CSIS website on the Arctic

 

 



8 February 2012: New publication from Heather Conley and CSIS on american perspectives on the Arctic region. 

A new security Architecture for the Arctic? An American perspectice.
By Heather A. Conley, Terry Toland, Jamie Kraut and Andreas Østhagen.

The Arctic will experience extraordinary economic and environmental change over the next several decades. Commercial, human, and state interaction will rise dramatically. More drilling for oil and gas in the region and growing shipping and ecotourism as new shipping routes come into existence are just a few of the examples of increased human activity in the Arctic. The melting of the Arctic ice cap is now exceeding previous scientific and climatic predictions. Arctic economics and an increasingly ice-free and hostile climatic environment are on a direct collision course, driving a clear need for a new paradigm to meet pressing security challenges that Arctic nations have thus far been unprepared or ill equipped to address.

Creating a twenty-first century security architecture for the Arctic presents the United States with a conundrum: U.S. Arctic policy must be given a sense of urgency and focus at the same moment that U.S. defense budgets are being reduced and U.S. military planners consider the Arctic to be “an area of low conflict.” How does one economically and militarily square this circle? While there has been some discussion of the form and format of international Arctic security cooperation, the debate has often focused on what issues cannot be discussed rather than on those that must be addressed. Arctic stakeholders have yet to discuss seriously what collective security framework Arctic states should use to address the emerging security challenges in the region, despite signing legally binding agreements on international search and rescue and negotiating international agreements on oil spills and response. This report analyzes the drivers of change in the region, examines the key Arctic security actors and institutions, and explores the potential for a new security architecture for the Arctic.


 




Summer 2011: CSIS hosts two events focusing on different Arctic issues.

29 June: the discussion Arctic horizons: views from the Departments of Defence and State on future opportunities in the Arctic. The discussion features Ambassador David A. Balton, deputy assistant secretary of State for Oceans and Fisheries, and Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Strategy. Moderator: Heather Conley, director of CSIS' Europe Program

12 July: the conference  Arctic oil and gas developments. This is the final session in its Impacts of the Gulf Oil Spill Series, which will evaluate the development of Arctic oil and gas resources. The conference will examine several key issue areas including: the state of play in development plans and activities in each of the Arctic countries, oil spill risks, and the possibilities for international cooperation to reduce the risk of major accidents and contain accidents that do occur. See the agenda.

Panel Discussions will cover

  • Development and Infrastructure Options in Alaska's Arctic and Market Challenges
  • International Arctic Resource Developments and Opportunities
  • Environmental Challenges for Arctic Development
Confirmed speakers include:
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senior Republican Member, U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior
  • Frances Ulmer, Chair, U.S. Arctic Research Commission

 

 


 

March 2010: Changes in the Arctic: Background and issues for Congress

This report provides an overview of Arctic-related issues for Congress, and refers readers to more in-dept CRS reports on specific Arctic-related issues. 

Among the issues are:

  • Climate change and loss of sea ice
  • Territorial claims and sovereignty issues
  • Commercial sea transportations
  • Oil, gas and minerals exploration
  • Fisheries
  • U.S. relations with other Arctic countries
  • Search and rescue

Download Pdf-file here

 


 

US Arctic Strategy
by Ingrid Lundestad, research fellow, IFS

 

The United States announced its Arctic Region Policy on January 9, 2009. The directive supersedes a similar US document from 1994. Although signed by the outgoing Bush administration, the policy is considered to be largely bipartisan.

Compared with the 1990s, the document reflects an increased US interest in the Arctic region. US interests, as identified in the directive, are seen in light of recent developments, including: altered national policies on homeland security and defense; the effects of climate change and increased human activity in the region; the establishment and ongoing work of the Arctic Council; as well as an awareness of the region’s resources.

It is pointed out that the United States has "broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region." Other issues than those directly pertaining to national and homeland security are also covered. These include boundary issues, scientific research, transportation, energy and environmental protection.

The directive states that the US is willing to operate independently in the Arctic, while at the same time underlining the need for international cooperation in the region. The work within the Arctic Council is seen as positive, though it is argued that the Council should sustain its current and limited mandate. The document states that the Senate should accede to the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, "to protect and advance U.S. interests, including with respect to the Arctic." The new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also supports ratification. She has confirmed that the Arctic is one area in which the Obama administration will highlight international cooperation in the implementation of US foreign policy.

To see the official policy document, please click here: US: Arctic region policy, January 2009

 

Analyses of US Arctic policy by programme researchers:

Heather Conley and Jamie Kraut, US Strategic Interests in the Arctic: An Assessment of Current Challenges and New Opportunities for Cooperation, A Report of the CSIS Europe Program, April 2010
Ingrid Lundestad, Will the US Become More Active in the Arctic?, Atlantic Community, 12 March 2010
Ingrid Lundestad, US Security Policy and Regional Relations in a Warming Arctic, Swords and Ploughshares, vol. XVII, no. 3, Fall 2009
Ingrid Lundestad, USA i nordområdene, Nordlys, 18 February 2009 [in Norwegian]

 




Expert comment:
In October 2009, the U.S. Navy (USN) released a new roadmap for its activities relating to the Arctic for the next five years. The document stipulates a number of initiatives and actions that are designed to increase the USN’s knowledge about the arctic and capability to operate in arctic conditions. The publication of this roadmap has led to speculations about a military build-up and the potential for conflict in this area. Does this signify the beginning of an arms race in the Arctic?

 By Amund Lundesgaard, Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies (15 December 2009)


This roadmap is an overview of the “action items, objectives and desired effects for the Arctic region from FY 10-14 [fiscal year 2010-2014].” It outlines strategic, operational, research and other initiatives that the Chief of Naval Operations considers necessary to have a responsible and sustainable presence in the Arctic. However, it does not contain any specific plans to increase the U.S. military presence significantly. Generally, the roadmap promotes cooperation, although speculations have versed that it can lead to conflicts.

 

First of all, the build up of military forces in the Arctic is not synonymous with conflict. The area has not seen much surface activity because of the ice. The activity has been under water and in the air; however, if the arctic becomes ice free during summer, it is natural that the navies and coast guards take an interest in this new domain. There are a number of factors that determines the potential for arms race and armed conflict. The build up of military capabilities is necessary to start an arms race and an armed conflict, but it is not a sufficient factor in and by itself.

 

Looking at other conflict-inducing factors, the potential for arms race and armed conflict in the arctic is rather limited. Most of the known resources are already distributed between the arctic countries. Furthermore, the US Geological Survey 2008 report on undiscovered Arctic petroleum resources indicates that most of the undiscovered resources are in undisputed areas. The conflict potential in the Arctic is thus quite limited, which was underscored at the Ilulissat conference in 2008. There, the states surrounding the Arctic Ocean (Canada, Denmark, Norway Russia and the United States) agreed to resolve any differences in United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) and other international forums. The arctic states most likely have a common interest in subjecting to UNCLOS rather than a specific regulatory regime, and so far, this agreement has been complied with, as claims have been submitted to the UNCLOS.

 

Turning to the U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap more specifically, the document emphasises cooperation and the peaceful resolution of differences. For example, the document advocates U.S. accession to UNCLOS, which signifies a rather cooperative USN stance on the Arctic. With the previous points in mind, it is likely that the document is a result of the possibilities and challenges that come with an opening of the Arctic, and not necessarily the start of an arms race.

 


 
Europe and the US: Is the honeymoon over? Seminar with Heather Conley, CSIS

18 August 2009: Heather Conley, director of the Europe programme at CSIS, asked if the transatlantic honeymoon is over. She assesed the relationship between the United States and Europe seven months into Obama's presidency.

Barack Obama’s election victory was widely endorsed in Europe. The core of his political outlook and his proclivity for political argument dovetails what many Europeans appreciate. No surprise therefore that his profound popularity lingers. Yet, there is a possibility that the European enthusiasm towards the new administration glosses over substantial policy differences across the Atlantic.

Urgent issues, such as how to win in Afghanistan, how to counteract and prevent a new financial crisis, how to deal with Russia and how to put a stop to global warming, can conceivably elicit disagreement and discord. Additionally, other regions of the world will certainly demand Obama’s attention. Indeed, there is no guarantee that the cultivation of the transatlantic relationship will be prioritized. Will the European Obama ease eventually give way to discontent? Is the honeymoon over?

See the seminar report here.

 



 

Geopolitics in the High North high level conference in WashingtonDC
On 28-29 April 2010, the Geopolitics in the High North research programme conducted its first, annual conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in WashingtonDC. The conference was a timely and relevant contribution to the growing interest in Arctic issues in the US, and gathered a number of representatives from government, think tanks and academia.

High level key note and panels
The conference focused on US strategic interests in the High North. The first day was high level, public event and included keynote introductions by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Norwegian State Secretary of Defence Espen Barth Eide.


In her address, Senator Murkowski stated that future international relations in the Arctic will require dynamic leadership, and that such leadership needed to be demonstrated in the US by Senate ratification on UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It would be better for the US to be a party to the treaty, rather than being an outsider hoping its interests will not be damaged, Murkowski argued. The treaty was submitted to the Senate for approval in 1994, but has not been ratified yet, leaving the US as the only Arctic state that is not a party to UNCLOS.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg focused on a broader perspective and saw the Arctic as a test case of the international community’s ability to meet transnational challenges in the 21st century. Using the term “the Arctic opportunity”, Steinberg was impressed by the remarkable goodwill shown by all states with interests in Arctic issues in approaching common challenges. 

Norwegian State Secretary of Defence Espen Barth Eide discussed the interconnectedness of the issues in a broader regional perspective. He also gave an overview of the historic agreement between Norway and Russia on maritime delimitation in the Barents Sea, which was signed in Oslo the previous day.


panel

In the two first panels, a range of experts from the US government and think tanks discussed US ratification of the UNCLOS and US interests in the Arctic in general. The final panel focused on security perspectives from both the US and Canadian, Russian, Danish and Norwegian perspectives. Geopolitics in the High North researchers Heather Conley, director of CSIS' Europe Program, Professor Rolf Tamnes, director of IFS, and IFS Senior Fellow Paal Sigurd Hilde. Pavel Baev, senior fellow at PRIO and Professor Lawson Brigham from the Univeristy of Fairbanks, both associated researchers at the Geopolitics in the High North, were also contributing.

Video and audio recordings of all key note addresses and panels are available at the CSIS website.

Enhanced role for NATO in the Arctic
Day two of the conference included a closed session workshop focusing on NATO’s role in the Arctic, where researchers and government representatives from the USNorwayCanadaDenmark and Russia discussed whether NATO should have a role in the Arctic, and what added value NATO could bring. The workshop was moderated by Dr. Stephen Flanagan, Senior Vice President, Henry Kissinger Chair, CSIS. See the workshop agenda here.

Launch of new CSIS publication 
At the conference, CSIS launched the new report: U.S. Strategic Interests in the ArcticAn Assessment of Current Challenges and New Opportunities for Cooperation, written by Heather Conley and Jamie Kraut. In the report they point to how the effects of climate change have launched the Arctic Circle to the forefront of geopolitical calculations, potentially transforming the region into a commercial hub fraught both with environmental concerns and complex challenges that have direct implications for U.S. national security. According to the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, climate change acts as an “instability accelerant” that will play a significant role in “shaping the future security environment.” The melting of the northern polar ice has dramatically altered this once static geographic and oceanic region and is responsible for the new-found profitability and geostrategic relevance of the region. Access to oil, gas, minerals, fish, and transportation routes, formerly locked in by thick ice, are for the first time becoming accessible and viable sources of profit.


Networking over international issues
Several speakers and participants spoke of the conference as a timely and relevant contribution to the growing interest of Arctic issues in the US. Over 165 people had registered to attend the conference, where German, Russian, Canadian, US and Norwegian programme researchers and associates were given a golden opportunity to learn more about US’ interests in the Arctic region as well as how High North issues are perceived in Washington.

conley_brigham_liten

 



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©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.
Do you have any questions? Please contact us: info@ifs.mil.no
For more information about current IFS research on the High North, please visit our website: https://forsvaret.no/ifs/en

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