Updated: Aug 18
OSIRIS has been monitoring a global security concern in an underreported region of the world: the Circumpolar North, or the Arctic. Over the past several years, the Russian Federation (Russia) has been plowing trade lanes with massive nuclear-powered icebreakers through the Arctic ice with the hopes to create a Russo-centric trade route between the People’s Republic of China (China) and the rest of the world. Like with all of Russia’s assets, the former Communist empire seeks to militaristically defend its presence in the Arctic, causing worry for all the Arctic states as well as the world’s largest military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Private corporations and trade partners will likely support a proposed trade route that cuts cargo shipments by thousands of miles and days’ worth of travel. Chinese exporters will likely enjoy an increased demand for cheaper shipments of food, raw materials, manufactured goods, and other commodities. Russia will likely benefit from this proposed multi-national trade relationship to help keep itself relevant on the international scene.
The Security Risk of the Circumpolar Cold War
The security risk that comes with a Russo-centric trade route in the Arctic consists of increasing reliance of trade partners on Russia and China—both of which have participated in nefarious statecraft such as cyberattacks, assassinations, and information warfare to destabilize first-world republican rival states. By placing international shipments at the mercy of Russian customs, the state sovereignty of global trade partners that utilize this Arctic route may weaken.
In this sense, such countries would be forced to become more reliant upon a centralizing, expansionist superpower whose international strategy may conflict with their own national interests. Russian hegemony is also bad for other reasons as the values of the West, which have helped raise nations out of third and second world statuses (causing them to be "developing" nations) have often conflicted with state-centric, authoritarian measures that are more pronounced in KGB-Putin's legacy.
Finally, Canada and the United States (US) are demonstrating worry over increased Russian military activity in the Circumpolar North. Former Arctic Soviet bases have been reactivated and repurposed to most presumably cater to the defense of a “Russian Arctic.” NATO has also been conducting joint military exercises near Russian Arctic waters.
The Organization routinely conducts war game simulations with member nations (and sometimes even non-members) as a way to mitigate global security threats. In one such recent simulation, the Trident Juncture war game, participating nations physically gathered their militaries north of the Arctic Circle. This particular exercise had one of the highest number of participants involved in the history of such threat-assessment exercises.
The OSIRIS Commitment to Reporting this Regional Issue
OSIRIS is committed to covering events relevant to this Circumpolar Cold War, with special interest in the security and statecraft components of this crisis. We maintain that it is in the best interest of civil society to have access to and harness the knowledge coming from this region of the world. Though most people are not policy-makers, most policy-makers are employed to represent millions of constituents. Our reports are aimed at communicating to both policy-makers and their constituents.
If you have questions about or leads regarding insights in the Arctic Cold War, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our team is especially interested in aggregating open source material coming from publicly-available media sources from the area that seldom get covered in mainstream news outlets, especially data coming from the Baltics, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and any other regional resource. At this time, the US does not seem to espouse a clear national security strategy regarding the Circumpolar North.
Stephen Ross also contributed to this article.
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Evans, J. (2021, May 25). The history and future of Arctic state conflict: The Arctic Institute conflict series. The Arctic Institute Center for Circumpolar Security Studies. Retrieved May 30, 2021 from https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/the-history-and-future-of-arctic-state-conflict-the-arctic-institute-conflict-series/#
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The Arctic Institute Center for Circumpolar Security Studies (AICCSS). (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2021 from https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/