The Future of Arctic Cooperation in a Changing Strategic Environment

Insights from a Scenario-Based Exercise Organised by RAND and Hosted by NUPI

by Stephanie Pezard, Abbie Tingstad, Alexandra Hall

Download Free Electronic Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.4 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

In recent years, the Arctic has been increasingly described as a region of intensifying geostrategic competition. As the region's ice cover gets thinner and smaller in area due to rising temperatures, there could be a number of implications:

  • Some resource-rich areas previously inaccessible may become increasingly attractive;
  • Maritime sea routes could be more heavily used by both commercial and military traffic; and
  • Coastal communities in the far north may experience new opportunities, as well as elevated risks from a variety of hazards.

By most accounts cooperation in the Arctic region remains strong. Institutions such as the Arctic Council support agreements between nations and other stakeholders on areas of common concern, such as search and rescue and oil-spill responses. Meanwhile, nations with an interest in the region have generally agreed that coordinated action furthers the interests of all.

However, despite Arctic being one of most conflict-free regions in the world, questions have emerged about how resilient it would be to major changes, some of which the region is already experiencing, and whether the current patterns of cooperation between nations would continue.

This Perspective summarises the results of a table-top exercise that examined factors that could potentially upset Arctic cooperation in the 2020 decade, focusing on overlapping extended continental shelf claims; increased maritime activity; and maritime incidents. This exercise confirmed the solidity of Arctic cooperation, but also identified potential "wild cards" that could make negotiated solutions more difficult to reach.

Research conducted by

This project is a RAND Venture. Funding was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The research was conducted by RAND Europe.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation perspective series. RAND perspectives present informed perspective on a timely topic that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND perspectives undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

Permission is given to duplicate this electronic document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Copies may not be duplicated for commercial purposes. Unauthorized posting of RAND PDFs to a non-RAND Web site is prohibited. RAND PDFs are protected under copyright law. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit the RAND Permissions page.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.