Feb 2, 2022
This report offers a perspective on how the UK could maximise its influence in the High North through enhanced cooperation across government and within multilateral fora in order to tackle environmental and geopolitical changes in the region. The impact of ice melting, opening sea routes and regional military build-up was assessed against UK interests and the current strategy of engagement with the High North developed by the government
In recent years, the Arctic and wider High North have re-emerged as an area of concern for policymakers, reflecting changes in climate and geopolitics. Rapid ice-melting and associated changes — such as rising sea levels resulting from higher temperatures — are opening new maritime routes and access to natural resources. Ongoing climate and environmental changes are rightly provoking global concern, but also bring renewed political, security, military and economic interest in the Arctic.
Though the UK is not an Arctic state, its strategic position neighbouring the region, its reliance on sea lines of communication, its role in NATO and its leadership on climate-change issues all entail a need for close engagement with developments in the High North. The Integrated Review released in March 2021 emphasised the UK's strategic interests in the Arctic and broader High North region. The Defence Command Paper that accompanied the Integrated Review similarly emphasised the importance of the High North in maintaining security in defence of the North Atlantic and called for enhanced capabilities and use of multilateral partnerships to better secure the region.
To be successful, the UK's approach must be underpinned by a clear understanding of the different diplomatic, information, military and economic levers through which the government can exert influence, either unilaterally or through cooperation with others. This project identified areas for further action or investigation, including a need to better understand how different parts of government could work together on High North issues and how the UK could maximise its influence over developments in the High North through international fora.
Strategic challenges and opportunities out to 2050
Prospects for a cross-government approach to UK strategy
Prospects for a multilateral approach to UK strategy
List of interviews