Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 352

352 Arctic Yearbook 2015 Declaration’ to abide by international law in order to settle their conflicting territorial claims on the Arctic continental shelves (Arctic Ocean Conference 2008) and also reiterated this commitment, in the Arctic Council’s ‘Vision for the Arctic’: The further development of the Arctic region as a zone of peace and stability is at the heart of our efforts. We are confident that there is no problem that we cannot solve together through our cooperative relationships on the basis of existing international law and good will. We remain committed to the framework of the Law of the Sea, and to the peaceful resolution of disputes generally (2013: 2). All Arctic states seem to have followed these norms and existing regulations when making territorial claims or settling border disputes in the region. In 2010, Russia and Norway for example signed an agreement on the delimitation of their borders in the Barents Sea (Centre for Borders Research 2015: 3). Similar treaties and agreements also exist for various other border delimitations in the Arctic, even for the USA (ibid.) which has not yet signed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). UNCLOS has not only provided a reliable framework of rules and regulations in the past, but also for the remaining and still to come overlapping claims in the High North (Dodds 2010: 66). In addition to an apparently accepted existing framework, the remaining unresolved border delimitations, such as Hans Island or the more or less ‘symbolic’ North Pole, are considered to carry little conflictual potential to provide enough ground for a risen fear of military confrontation in the region (Welch 2013: 2 f.; Mazo 2014). Both observations seem to continue to hold true. After its updated submission to UNCLOS in August, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated: We have been well aware of the Danish plans […] and it has for a long time been clear that the country’s bid for extended continental shelf will include and even exceed the North Pole. […] Possible overlapping parts of our countries’ shelf in the Arctic will be delimited in a bilateral manner, in negotiations and on the basis of international law (Staalesen 2015b). Most of the recent changes in military infrastructure, deployment or arms acquisition in the Arctic have so far been neither very strong in their force projection nor very specifically directed towards the region as such. They are much more a response to a quickly melting natural environment, which for example requires a strengthening of the countries’ northern border security capacities for the prevention from potential threats through for example smuggling, human trafficking or international terrorism (Wezeman 2012; Padrtová 2014: 421; Lind 2014; Bergh 2014; Wezeman 2014). Also the actual fulfillment of this military planning can be met with a considerable amount of skepticism – mainly due to the high costs they pose (Wezeman 2012: 14; Padrtová 2014: 421). Nevertheless, Russia’s recent violations of international norms for peaceful dispute settlement in Georgia and in course of the crisis in and around Ukraine have also severely increased suspicion about the country’s military strategy in the High North, which on the one hand concentrates on the modernization of its armed forces and on the other hand on improvements in military infrastructure: Russia is modernizing the Northern Fleet’s strategic nuclear submarines, and […] [i]n January 2015 Russia established a new Arctic brigade in Alakkurti, located just Schaller