Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 251

251 Arctic Yearbook 2015 the political importance of the chair should not be underestimated as the conduct of the chairmanship, particularly in a rotating system, gives states some maneuvering space that they can use to their own advantage and in pursuit of their national interests. For this reason, we can expect the institutional mechanism of the chairmanship of the Arctic Council to have some influence on the direction of Arctic international relations. From the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy to the Arctic Council Before going into specifics of the AC chair and provisions regulating its role in the Council, the theoretical insights above can help us understand the struggles carried over the shape of the Arctic Council. According to rational choice institutionalism, states construct institutions to advance their goals and support their interests. They spend time and effort negotiating institutions and fighting over their design not only because the institutional setup affects the outcomes, but also because the institutions, once in place, cannot be changed or adapted quickly to world’s changing conditions and configurations of international power (Koremenos et al. 2001:762) - the UN Security Council being the primary example here. At the same time, wrangles over the design and the procedural issues represent in fact debates on more fundamental questions of purpose and direction - as it was in the case of the Arctic Council (Scrivener 1999: 57). Whereas the paragraph below does not focus exclusively on the AC chair, it offers instead a bigger picture of negotiations towards establishment of the Council and how position take by the United States at that time affected today’s shape of this institution. The origins of the Arctic Council date back to the early post-Cold War period when in June 1991 representatives of eight Arctic states (today’s members of the Arctic Council) adopted the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) to protect the environment of high north latitudes (see: Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy 1991; Koivurova & VanderZwaag 2007; Nilson 1997; Young 1998). In view of some states, however, the narrowly defined focus of the AEPS did not allow to address all relevant matters pertaining to the Arctic. In particular, Canada was in favour of establishing an umbrella-type of political body to handle a wider set of issues in framework of sustainable development in the region (Canadian Arctic Resources Committee 1991; English 2013). The Canadian initiative for the establishment of the Arctic Council met yet a great deal of resistance and, until the last moment, it was uncertain whether it would come to a successful conclusion. The greatest opposition came from the United States which opposed broadening the environmental cooperation of the AEPS into a broader framework for several reasons, including the participation of indigenous peoples, the use of the concept of sustainable development, issues of military security and, finally, a low degree of interest in the Arctic among Washington officials and politicians (English 2013: 188-193).5 The US was not in favour of creation of new international organizations and ]