Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 313

Big Fish in a Small (Arctic) Pond: Regime Adherence as Status & Arctic State Identity in Norway Ingrid A. Medby Despite frequent reassurances that the Arctic region’s regime of governance rests soundly on two mutually reinforcing pillars: the Arctic Council intergovernmental cooperation and the international UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), doubt is still cast time and time again on the durability of Arctic peace and stability. Explanations for the regime’s strength are often based on classical theories of international relations, wherein traditional concepts of power-struggles ensure the relative benefit of state cooperation in the region. However, the case is here made that adherence to the present Arctic regime of governance is not just a matter of material or strategic importance for the eight so-called Arctic states. It is also a matter of status, pride, and identity; indeed, perceptions of a state’s role in the world are a powerful and often underestimated force in determining interstate relations. Examining the specific case of one Arctic state, Norway, the paper explores how a state identity linked to the status granted by the current regime of governance guides political practices. This is done by drawing on a range of interviews with Norwegian state officials. For these, Arctic statehood is tied to political status, leverage, and legitimacy, thereby contributing to a positive selfperception and an advantageous international position. Furthermore, this is linked to pre-existing idea(l)s of ‘essential’ Norwegian history, culture, and values. Thus, through adopting a self-perception founded on the present Arctic regime of governance, the latter is discursively and normatively strengthened and reified, showing the potential potency of a political, state identity. Introduction Melting, thawing, ‘opening’, and high on the international agenda – there is no denying that the Arctic is changing. For many, a changing region spells a seemingly unstable region, and time and time again doubt has been cast on the durability of &7F