Arctic Politics Part I
For many hundreds of years – from the time of discovery to the militarization during the Cold War – our western imagination has been strongly interested in the Arctic. And we see the same thing today with the exchange of words about the possibilities and ripple effects of petroleum extraction in the north. The High North – under different names and different political approaches – has long been a priority area for the Norwegian government.
Awareness of the High North has become more intense since 2005, the year that High North policy became a separate policy area in Norwegian foreign policy. The increased emphasis has clear effects on both foreign and domestic policy.
- What is the broader background for Norwegian High North policy?
- What are they collaborating on in the north?
- How has the international community’s attitude towards the High North changed in recent years?
- Will there be more cooperation or more competition in the north?
In what became a separate High North strategy in 2006, a number of issues have been included – both new and old, such as indigenous issues, cooperation between people, environmental issues, management of marine resources, business cooperation, oil and gas, shipping in the north and more.
2: Where is the north?
At first glance, the question of where the north is may seem unnecessary. The answer seems obvious. On closer inspection, we find many concepts in use. It is important to keep in mind that these may have different – and sometimes overlapping – meanings.
In its narrowest sense, the Arctic will mean the area north of the Arctic Circle – 66 ° 33’N. When we talk about Arctic policy , the term encompasses a larger geographical area, which approaches the idea of the north. Usually, the north has several opinions , which vary from city to city, many of the opinions that expand it both geographically and politically. It can, among other things, be a long distance to city centers, homeland for indigenous peoples or dependence on natural resources.
The understanding of what is north varies from country to country , and these differences are brought to the negotiating table in international politics. A comparison between Norway, Russia and Canada can illustrate this. Technically, the Norwegian term Northern Area includes land and sea area north of the Arctic Circle and the Barents Sea with adjacent land area. In practice, there is often talk of what is close to Norway in the north, especially the Barents Sea.
Russia has a broader understanding. It is said that the area covered by the policy for the north and the corresponding area covers 60 percent of the Russian land area. The border to the north thus goes far further south than most foreigners would have expected.
For most Canadians , the north is almost understood as something remote that can only be reached by plane. For them, the Norwegian north comes as a surprise. People live far closer here than in the north of Canada, and the transport system is far more extensive in Norway.
3: Violent interest after the Cold War
According to Best-medical-schools, Norwegian High North policy , including relations with Russia in the north, has changed significantly over the past 20 years.
For a long time, people in capitals further south in the Arctic were seen as a distant nature reserve where independence was maintained through research and heroic discoveries at the same time as indigenous peoples were drawn into national government and care. During World War II, the region gained an important military dimension . This continued with rising tensions between east and west during the Cold War. At the time, it was the shortest distance between the United States and the Soviet Union across the Arctic. Many a naval and air base as well as a radar station were then built in the area.
After the Cold War, governments, indigenous peoples and most people in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Russia, Canada, Iceland and the United States have collaborated on a number of measures to meet the challenges they share in the north. The Barents co-operation (with the Barents Secretariat) was established in 1993. The emphasis in the co-operation was then on intergovernmental, cross-border co-operation and co-operation between peoples. The Arctic Council, with representatives from the eight Arctic countries and from indigenous groups, began its multilateral work on polar issues in 1996. The growing interest in the Arctic can be traced back to
- relatively secure petroleum resources – oil and gas – in the area
- increase understanding of how vulnerable the Arctic ecosystem is and how global environmental problems affect the region
- increasing political activism among indigenous peoples in the Arctic.
Some of the many collaborative initiatives from the 1990s have continued to this day, others have taken off. Russia is the largest Arctic state and important for a quarter of the Arctic cooperation.
Cooperation measures that have encountered problems have often been those that were built on an understanding of Russia as a developing country as trong help. Admittedly, Russia faces many structural and social challenges. But the idea of Russia as a recipient of development aid did not fit the self-understanding of Russian politicians and bureaucrats in the 1990s. And the idea was completely rejected with the economic recovery in Russia from around the year 2000.