The Arctic Institiute has published a fascinating piece on the three levels of Arctic Geopolitics. The piece by Andreas Østhagen classifies the three levels of Arctic Geopolitics as: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”
His labelling of these three levels as “good”, “bad”, and “ugly” he says is an unabashed borrowing from Sergio Leone’s epic Spaghetti Western film—can shed light on the distinctiveness of each but also how they interact. Such an approach explains why the idea of impending conflict persists, and why this does not necessarily go against the reality of regional cooperation and stability. In other words, my analysis can help explain why rivalry and collaboration do co-exist in the Arctic.
The notion of a conflictual Arctic and great-power politics continues to make the headlines. The newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Kenneth J. Braithwaite, recently warned of increasing hostility in the Arctic, noting, “The Chinese and the Russians are everywhere, especially the Chinese.” This followed a speech given a few months earlier on May 6 2019, by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, that represented a clear break with notions of the Arctic as a “zone of peace.”
And yet, the U.S., Russia (both as members of the Arctic Council), and China (as an observer) are strong supporters of cooperative Arctic mechanisms, and repeatedly stress their desire to ensure that the circumpolar region remains insulated from troubles elsewhere in surprisingly streamlined Arctic “strategies.”
Ideas of the Arctic as an arena for political competition and rivalry are often juxtaposed with the view of the Arctic as a region of harmony and shared interests.2) Such regional approaches have led to Arctic security debates being dominated by ideas of “exceptionalism”: the Arctic being unique, and separate from the geopolitical elsewhere in the world.
About Arctic Institute
Established in 2011, The Arctic Institute is an independent, non-profit 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization headquartered in Washington, D.C with a network of researchers across the world. We envision a world in which the diverse and complex issues facing Arctic security are identified, understood, and innovatively resolved. Rigorous, qualitative, and comprehensive research is the Institute’s core for developing solutions to challenges and injustices in the circumpolar north.