Arctic Security: A Global Challenge*

AuthorMarco Marsili
Published date01 December 2022
Date01 December 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
26(2) 139 –158, 2022
© 2022 Jadavpur University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/09735984221120299
Arctic Security:
A Global Challenge*
Marco Marsili1
Arctic security is a main security challenge—a global one, not only a
regional one—not only for the Arctic countries, but for the whole
international community, first of all Europe. With the Russian Federation
and the People’s Republic of China expanding their role in the area,
and the difficulty of finding an undisputed governance on maritime
routes and economic exploitation of resources, there is the risk of
militarization of the Arctic. After briefly summarizing current and future
challenges in the Arctic, this article analyzes the limits due to a deficit
of suitable instruments to maintain security in the region, especially in
relation to the role of international intergovernmental organizations,
and it suggests some remedies to overcome these deficiencies.
Russia, China, Arctic Council, European Union, NATO
1Centro de Investigação do Instituto de Estudos Políticos da Universidade Católica
Portuguesa (CIEP-UCP), Lisbon, Portugal
Corresponding author:
Marco Marsili, Centro de Investigação do Instituto de Estudos Políticos da Universidade
Católica Portuguesa (CIEP-UCP), Lisbon 1649-023, Portugal.
*Paper presented at the 7th Lisbon International Arctic Conference and Workshop,
held at the Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas (ISCSP), Universidade
de Lisboa (School of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Lisbon, ISCSP-
ULisboa), on December 13, 2019.
140 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations 26(2)
The Increasing Importance of the Arctic
The Arctic region has become an arena for power and for competition
(Huebert and Lackenbauer 2021; Lanteigne 2019) and Arctic nations
must adapt to this new future. The Arctic holds the greatest concentration
of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas, uranium, gold, diamonds, rare
earth minerals—phosphate, bauxite, iron ore, copper, and nickel
(Soltvedt, Rottem, and Hønneland 2018; Westerlundand and Öhman
1992)—and last but not least, fish (Pompeo 2019a). Offshore resources,
that are said to include over 90 billion barrels of oil and an estimated
trillion dollars’ worth of rare earth metals (Todd Lopez 2020), are the
subject of renewed competition; they should be considered common
goods—international or global public goods1.
Nowadays, environmental and economic issues are broadly considered
to be threats to security and stability (OSCE 2003). Therefore, the
protection of these resources is a security issue, which involves the use
of force or military means. This is an issue that concerns the traditional
domains of operations—land, sea, and air. The maritime domain—that
is, the Arctic Ocean—is predominant, due to the allocation of resources
and the operating environment. Sea routes are the ‘liquid’ highways
along which goods travel across the world, and therefore play a strategic
global economic role (Rodrigue 2017).
The Arctic Highways
There are several Arctic maritime (or shipping) routes: the Northeast
Passage (NEP); the Northwest Passage (or NWP, going through the
Canadian Arctic Archipelago and the coast of Alaska); the Transpolar
Route (or TSR, going through the North Pole); the Arctic Bridge Route
(or Arctic Sea Bridge). So far, because of permafrost, these routes were
not accessible. Due to climate change and global warming the Polar ice
cap is melting, and this opens up the possibility for an Arctic route to be
accessible for at least part of the year. The Northeast Passage is the
overall route on Russia’s side of the Arctic between North Cape and the
Bering Strait; it traverses (from west to east) the Barents Sea, Kara Sea,
Laptev Sea, East Siberian Sea, and Chukchi Sea, and it includes the
Northern Sea Route (NSR). The Northern Sea Route is a portion of the
NEP that lies in Arctic waters and within Russia’s Exclusive Economic
Zone (Buixadé Farré et al. 2014). The Northern Sea Route Administration,

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