Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 345

The Arctic Security Community: Proving Ground or Sub-Plot of a Tensed European Security Environment? Benjamin Schaller For a long time, economic, environmental and human challenges to security dominated the governmental discourse on Arctic security and the work of the Arctic Council. Projects and procedures of cross-border co-operation negated opportunities for any geopolitical tension in the region. Even the widely cited Arctic ‘dispute’, on the yet-to-be defined maritime borders in the High North, has so far followed international law under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. As a result, diplomats and many scholars optimistically assess the future of Arctic security. One could come to the conclusion that the Arctic represents “a transnational region comprised of sovereign states whose people maintain dependable expectations of peaceful change,” or a potential ‘Arctic Security Community.’ The rising geopolitical tensions surrounding the Ukrainian crisis, however, may have now stopped, probably even reversed, the long, slow and difficult process towards such a security community in the High North. One reason, as this article argues, is that over the years, military security has been excluded from much of the Arctic security discourse. This incomprehensive security approach has made the region vulnerable to spillover effects of geo-political tensions. Worse, this approach now seems to slowly threaten even the good track record of cooperation in economic, environmental and human security dimensions. Since many government-to-government contacts, especially military-to-military ones, are currently completely immobilized, this article not only argues for a more comprehensive approach towards Arctic security, but also for a strengthening and inclusion of the region’s strong levels of cross-border co-operations between research institutions, civil society actors and indigenous peoples into a ‘Comprehensive Arctic Security Environment.’ If such a comprehensive approach can be achieved, this article argues finally that the Arctic might even be able to serve as a proving ground for restoring mutual trust and confidence beyond its regional borders, within the currently tensed European security environment. Introduction On March 9th, 5000 troops launched the military exercise “Joint Viking,” Norway’s largest military drill in Finnmark, Norway’s northernmost county (‘fylke’), since 1967 (Nilsen 2015a). On the other side of the border 38,000 Russian soldiers, more than 3000 military vehicles, 41 naval vessels as well as 15 submarines and over a 100 military aircraft of the Russian Northern Fleet were put on full combat alert on March 16th (Nilsen 2015b). Carried out as a so-called “snap-exercise” – without prior Benjamin Schaller is a PhD Candidate and Research Fellow at the Centre for Peace Studies (CPS) at UiT The Arctic University of Norway.