Security prospects in the High North: geostrategic thaw or freeze?

Posted in NATO | 07-Jul-09 | Author: Karl-Heinz Kamp| Source: NATO Defense College

The present volume contains selected papers from the Academic Roundtable "Security Prospects in the High North: Geostrategic Thaw or Freeze?" organised in Reykjavik by the NATO Defense College (NDC) with the support of the University of Iceland on 30 January 2009. The Roundtable gathered participants from a number of NATO and Partner countries to address the security implications of changes underway in the Arctic in this, NATO's 60th Anniversary year. The Roundtable was linked to a NATO Seminar of officials and invited specialists to address the same topic.

The authors were expected to raise important questions rather than to supply easy answers about the evolving security environment of the High North and NATO's role within it. They were encouraged to cast a critical eye over the facts and processes at hand rather than draw hasty conclusions if these were not clearly supported by solid empirical evidence. As a consequence, some of the contributions explicitly question widespread but not always well-founded images of recent Arctic developments related to legal and economic issues as well as security. Regarding the prospects for continued regional and international cooperation in the Arctic, the underlying message is one of guarded optimism rather than alarmism, warranting a deliberate yet measured NATO response.

There was broad consensus both at the official Seminar and the Academic Roundtable about some key elements that must be in place if the Arctic is to remain a region of peace and prosperity. One of them is the continued unequivocal support for international law, most importantly by the Arctic states themselves, but also by outside actors, as the only possible framework for resolution of remaining jurisdictional disputes. Another is the understanding by all interested parties, including international organisations like NATO, that Arctic policies should as far as possible be transparent and inclusive. A reinvigorated role for the Alliance in the Arctic can only be envisaged in close cooperation with civil authorities and

NATO's Partner nations. In this respect, Russia's role as a pre-eminent Arctic power deserves special recognition. The contributions to the volume have been selected on the basis of merit, relevance and with a view to the coherence of the volume. All the views expressed, including those by the editors in the Introduction, are those of the authors only, and should not be attributed to NATO, the NDC or any of the institutions or governments represented by the contributors.

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