Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 328

328 Arctic Yearbook 2015 Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Government of Greenland 2014: 8). In the coming years, three Arctic coastal states (Canada, Denmark, and Russia) will divide a large part of the central Arctic Ocean, including the North Pole, between them under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The claims are part of a wider delimitation process in the High North that also involves Norwegian and American continental shelf claims. Some media outlets portray this process as an Arctic great game, a competition for virgin lands, ripe with untapped resources and opportunities that comes with the risk of military conflict in the High North (Withnall 2014; Anonymous 2015c; Hopper 2014; Anonymous 2015b; Jacobson 2014). Most Arctic scholars believe that these warnings are overstated (Young 2009; Young 2011; Keil 2014; Brosnan, Leschine, and Miles 2011). They point to the 2008 Ilulissat Declaration, in which the coastal states declared that they would respect international law when settling the delimitation lines in the Arctic region (Ilulissat Declaration 2008). They also stress the fact that most of the resources in the High North are located along the coasts, in areas that have already been divided between the Arctic littoral states. However, as some scholars have emphasized, one cannot simply disregard the conflict potential in the Arctic by pointing to the current state of affairs (Huebert 2013). It is important to understand why the states currently cooperate and under what circumstances the delimitation process could ignite tensions between the High North states. This paper suggests that this can be done by examining how the delimitation process is shaped by the interaction between law and geopolitics. Geopolitics is not just static geographical facts about where states lie and what territories they occupy – geography has to be placed in a dynamic context with other political factors. Resources and territorial disputes must be understood together with the intricacies of international law and the immediate and long-term political goals and means of the great powers. Non-Arctic events, most importantly the Ukraine crisis, affect global politics and such changes may alter how Washington, Moscow, Copenhagen, Oslo, and Ottawa view the Arctic region and the delimitation process. This piece examines how Canada, Denmark, and Russia are likely to approach the delimitation process around the North Pole through analyzing the interaction between international law and geopolitics. Specifically, it seeks to understand whether the UNCLOS process is likely to lead to tensions between the three states? It argues that Canada, Denmark, and Russia most likely will cooperate to divide the territory between them peacefully. Even from a purely Realpolitik point of view, the states have an interest in solving any disputes peacefully and international law provides procedures and rules that facilitate interstate coordination and an orderly settling of disputes. Domestic politics may complicate matters if governments or domestic political actors try to capture voters by following or demanding a more assertive course in the High North. The Arctic plays a symbolically important role in the national narratives of most of the states and domestic forces may pressure governments to problematize the process if outcomes do not match expectations. The Ukraine crisis exacerbates this potential and one cannot reject the possibility that future global political ruptures may cause problems down the line. There are several types of territorial and legal logics at play in the Arctic. The present piece focuses on the extended continental shelf claims – that is, claims made by states based on article 76 through 85 of UNCLOS, specifically Canada, Denmark, and Russia’s claim to area around the North Pole. The conclusions of the piece can easily be extrapolated to also be relevant for other continental shelf claims Rahbek-Clemmensen