Sep 22, 2021
Arctic states and other stakeholders have long cooperated on territorial, military, and other affairs to avoid or mitigate conflict. In this report, researchers identify potential risks and catalysts that could escalate into conflict in the region, determine which of those cannot be solved by existing governance mechanisms, and identify potential changes to such mechanisms to help mitigate the identified risks.
The eight recognized Arctic states—Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States—have long cooperated in the Arctic region, even when their respective interests, especially those between Russia and the United States, have clashed on other matters. They have done so because each state perceives that it benefits from the current state of cooperation, which occurs through a set of international, regional, and subregional governance mechanisms. But conditions in the Arctic are evolving—driven by such factors as climate change, economics, and geopolitics—and thus its governance mechanisms must also evolve in order to mitigate new risks before they potentially escalate into conflict. What are these risks? How should existing governance mechanisms evolve to mitigate those risks? In this report, researchers propose and implement an adaptive, four-stage approach to identify potential Arctic conflict catalysts; determine, confirm, and prioritize the catalysts that cannot be solved through existing Arctic governance mechanisms; and identify potential governance mechanisms that can evolve to mitigate identified risks. The researchers conclude that, to decrease the risk of unraveling cooperation by 2030, Arctic stakeholders should work toward resolving gaps in Arctic governance in three ways: improving currently limited dialogue and transparency on military issues, updating and providing new capabilities to implement existing governance agreements, and enabling more inclusivity in Arctic-relevant decisionmaking without challenging the sovereignty of Arctic states.