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The Arctic: a fine line between cooperation and confrontation

02.07.2019 16:10

Many states around the world give high priority to the Arctic and the prospects for its development. The optimistic mantra of consensus cooperation camouflages the transformation of a conflict-free region into a spot for 
a geopolitical clash. There are increasing allegations of the Extreme North gradually turning into a field of acute competition between the Arctic, subarctic and extra-regional powers. At the same time, the line between cooperation and confrontation is a fine one.

Thus, US Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer announced in January 2019 that the Navy is developing a resumption plan for the Adak strategic base  in Alaska and considering the operations in the Arctic to show the US flag. In this regard, Washington is planning to send its surface craft to the Arctic waters for the first time. The statements of Denmark’s defense minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen are also twofold. On the one hand, the politician declares that the kingdom adheres  to the peaceful development of the Arctic, but ... “at the same time, we have  no right to be naive when other countries are gaining a foothold in the region. Therefore, we must pay constant attention to the development of the Arctic and North Atlantic together with our allies.”

At the same time, Norway is still actively expanding its military presence in the Arctic. In the northern latitudes the country continues deploying the operational command ‘Finnmark’, recruiting a separate tank battalion and a special reconnaissance unit. Against this background, there the number and intensity  of combat and operational training of troops are increasing, conducted both under national plans and the guidance of allied forces.
Despite the attempts of some international actors to exacerbate the contradictions in the region, the Far North continues to develop and assert itself as a territory of cooperation and interaction. In general, the commitment of the countries of the region to maintaining contacts and dialogue is clearly visible in the annual international forums and conferences devoted to the development of the Arctic.

The largest discussion platform for discussing the Arctic problems at the world level is the "Arctic: Territory of Dialogue" forum. It is aimed at uniting the efforts of the international community to ensure the effective development of the Arctic and improvement the living standard of the northern territories population.

In April 2019, the fifth forum was held. It finally asserted itself as the world's largest forum for discussing Arctic topics. The participation of the five Arctic countries leaders (Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland) was the highlight. During the event, the heads of states recognized unanimously the importance of international cooperation to preserve the Arctic natural resources. Such meetings serve as a vivid example of how problematic issues should  be resolved in conditions of geopolitical instability.

Certainly, the Arctic region will be an area of major concern to the world community, since the attractiveness of the Arctic will increase in direct proportion to the territory ice clearance. But as long as the leaders of the Arctic states seek  to solve problems together, regardless of contradictions and differences, the region has hope for a peaceful future, and the fine line between cooperation and confrontation will not be transgressed.