Navigating Melting Ice and Eroding Exceptionalism: Theory-Driven Policy Pathways for NATO’s High North Commitment

22 juillet 2022
By Pauline Baudu, Research assistant at the Wilson Center Polar Institute and Environmental Change and Security Program, and at the Center for Climate and Security (Washington, DC), IRIS Sup’ graduate in Defense, Security and Crisis Management

The warming Arctic has emerged as a great power politics front again, with climate change acting as a catalyst of interests in the region. The shift in focus from soft security to harder security threats has been challenging the “Arctic exceptionalism” narrative and posing a new challenge for a recently revived NATO – of which five members are Arctic countries – as to the role the Alliance should play in the region. The discussion has become even more timely considering the major strategic shift operating in the wake of Russia’s renewed war on Ukraine, which has been impacting a globalised and vulnerable Arctic. As NATO’s new Strategic Concept mentions the High North for the first time, and in light of the Alliance’s recent Climate and Security Action Plan, this policy paper aims at defining a grid for analysing NATO’s Arctic role and considers policy pathways and priorities.

After recalling the components of a changing Arctic as a ground for strategic competition and exploring the extent of NATO’s High North challenges, this paper reflects on the paradigms that could guide the Alliance’s regional approach in light of three main International Relations theories. Recognising the increased importance of deterrence and reassurance, it explores what a neo-realist approach may mean for the Alliance in terms of potential for escalation, and examines NATO’s operational assets and capacity gaps for its northern flank. Through a constructivist lens, it assesses the relative subjectivity of threat perception and explores pathways to address the Arctic security dilemma via transparency measures and prospects for renewed hard-security dialogue. Lastly, it analyses NATO’s role under a neoliberal institutionalist approach by assessing the impacts of the invasion of Ukraine on Arctic multilateralism and highlighting the need to focus on regional sustainability.

Building on the above, the author considers these paradigms as complementary to each other and argues that a carefully calibrated approach should lie in expanded presence and dialogue to increase regional predictability and stability. This should include coordinated deterrence-oriented efforts to fill existing operational gaps with a focus on enhancing Arctic domain awareness, while avoiding the spread of confrontational narratives and addressing the risks of unintended escalation. The High North can also be a climate security test bed for NATO to serve as a standard-setting tool and provide guidance for allies to operate sustainably and reduce their military footprint.

* This policy paper derives from a thesis submitted in September 2021, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While the analysis has been updated to factor in the subsequent shift in Arctic relations, this paper does not intend to be exhaustive on the whole diversity of regional implications. In addition, given the fluidity of the current global strategic relations at the time of writing, further regional developments may arise by the time this paper gets published.


A changing Arctic challenging NATO’s High North strategy void

The melting Arctic, an opening arena for geo-strategic competition and resuming military build-up

“Climate change is a crisis multiplier, it has direct consequences for our security…[It] can fuel conflicts everywhere, but in different ways.”[1] […] “The paradox of the Arctic is that you have this tradition of cooperation, trying to work together, lower tensions, but you also know that under the ice in the Arctic, you have some of the most dangerous weapons in the world.”[2]

Since 2010, climate change has explicitly been recognised by NATO as one of the major challenges the Alliance is facing, shaping its strategic environment with potential to affect its planning and operations.[3] In addition to climate-shaped geopolitical risks and instability, NATO’s Allied Command Transformation (ACT)[4] is expecting climate to impact allied forces’ equipment, people, operating procedures and infrastructure, thereby increasingly affecting NATO’s ability to deliver its three core tasks of collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security. Factoring these challenges into its agenda, NATO adopted last year its Climate Change and Security Action Plan, the first pillar of which being enhancing Allied awareness by integrating climate considerations into regional risk assessments.[5] NATO’s new 2022 Strategic Concept further states that “NATO should become the leading international organisation when it comes to understanding and adapting to the impact of climate change on security ».

The Arctic is one of the most climate-vulnerable regions, warming four times faster than the rest of the globe. As mentioned by NATO in its recently released Climate Change and Security Impact Assessment, the region is a concrete example of how climate shapes geopolitical risks and the Alliance’s strategic environment. As such, it serves as a regional case study for NATO’s efforts towards awareness of and adaptation to new climate security realities. In 2021, a strategic foresight report on the Arctic[6] released by NATO’s ACT acknowledged climate change as being a “threat multiplier”[7] able to “influence drivers for future conflict” in the circumpolar region. Indeed, climate change acts as a catalyst of interests in the Arctic. As a consequence, while climate risks primarily affect the Arctic’s interconnected human, environmental and social security, these risks also intersect with harder-security considerations.

Among the physical impacts from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, such as new temperature extremes and biodiversity changes (including shifts in fish distribution patterns), the Arctic is experiencing dramatic permafrost thaw and decline in Arctic sea ice. These changes have been leading to significant geo-economic implications. First, combined with recent technological advances, sea-ice melting allows for easier access to natural resources for commercial exploitation -including hydrocarbons[8], minerals crucial to the green energy transition[9] and abundant fisheries. This, however, has not been significantly impacting regional tensions since most resources are located on Arctic coastal states’ territories or existing EEZs, and overlapping territorial claims are so far being dealt with via legal means. Second, the current trend of sea ice melting is expected to open up shorter sea lanes for international transportation networks. The most rapidly accessible is expected to be the Northern Sea Route (NSR), along the Russian shore, which has been subject to Moscow’s grand development plans. Although annual transit shipping still remains low due to not being safe enough nor economically viable yet, the NSR has been registering growing cargo volume[10] –dominated by destination shipping of hydrocarbons[11]– as well as increased Russian control and military build-up.

Beyond economic ambitions – which reality is not expected to be meeting expectations anytime soon due to Russia’s extreme climate exposure threatening its oil and gas infrastructure, and to international sanctions hindering the country’s capacity to secure capital investments and markets[12] -, Russia also has strategic interests to project power in an increasingly globalised Arctic. This predominantly lies in its willingness to protect its key energy and military infrastructure – including its Kola-based second-strike nuclear capabilities, rendered vulnerable by the thawing of Russia’s natural northern border- and to ensure its ability to operate in the North Atlantic and European Arctic.[13] In recent years, Russia has been extensively reopening and modernising its military facilities, naval capabilities, airbases and monitoring systems, all the while using an assertive and often provocative rhetoric over the region.[14]

In the Arctic actor mapping, another stakeholder that has been attracting the West’s attention, and somewhat raising suspicion, is China. Beijing’s ambitions in the Arctic mostly focus on a) infrastructure and energy projects (although further investments in Russia’s projects have recently been deterred by exposure to secondary sanctions), b) regional governance – related to China’s self-proclaimed identity as a “near-Arctic state” – and c) scientific research and diplomacy[15], with the broader ambition to be accepted as a full-fledged polar stakeholder.[16] From a strategic perspective, it has also come to the West’s attention that China has completed joint exercises with Russia, has contracted the construction of a nuclear icebreaker, and that most of its scientific facilities are dual use and can collect strategic data.[17]

Overall, climate-driven economic perspectives and great powers’ influence ambitions, combined with the preexisting strategic significance of the Arctic[18] and with the global geopolitical shift occurring since February 2022, have been fuelling the resuming securitisation of the region. The growing regional tensions and recent pause in Arctic-8 cooperation are challenging the low-tension narrative, which was already seriously undermined since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.[19] This year’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has been a turning point in reshuffling Arctic dynamics. This may challenge Russia’s cost/benefit calculus over a stable Arctic and adds further uncertainty and complexity to an already vulnerable region, with security consequences for the five NATO Arctic nations.[20] As Russia still needs a stable operating environment[21] and sees its military forces being outsized by NATO’s, the risk of direct Arctic confrontation may remain low. However, there is a growing consensus that the risk for kinetic warfare to break out in the Arctic cannot be overlooked, especially as Russia’s feeling of vulnerability may drive the country towards even more aggressive endeavours.[22]

The need for a unified Allied approach

NATO’s deterrence and defence missions have recently been bolstered. In this context, and in NATO’s 360-degree thinking, the High North represents the Alliance’s northern flank, where Allies’ sovereignty and security also need to be safeguarded and where Article 5 naturally applies. Although NATO does not have a clear Arctic strategy and had, until now, been displaying a rather cautious approach when it came to formal wording or engagement, there has been a growing pressure to reconsider this stance since 2014, especially as the Arctic has become an increasing component of allied training exercises – including the recent Cold Response 2022 as well as Trident Juncture 2018 designed under Article 5 scenario. In 2019, NATO further established its Joint Force Command Norfolk, which area of operations includes the High North, including the strategic GIUK Gap.[23] Although the High North made its first formal appearance in NATO’s 2021 Brussels Summit Communiqué, the latest and most significant milestone was for the region to be mentioned for the first time in the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept adopted in June 2022. The document features the High North as the prime example of the threat posed by Russia to the Alliance’s security and labels Russia’s “capability to disrupt Allied reinforcements and freedom of navigation” in the region as “a strategic challenge to the Alliance”.[24] Broader considerations emphasised in the new document also apply to the Arctic – in particular NATO’s attachment to freedom of navigation, as well as the mention of China’s use of economic and political tools to project power.

Despite this recent conceptual turning point and NATO’s revived unity, the form and level of a potential High North engagement is still being debated. Even amongst Arctic NATO allies, security perceptions vary based on geographical contexts, subsequent Russian security variable[25] and degree of climate affectedness[26]. Canada and Norway, two of the most actively engaged in Arctic affairs, are described as having opposite approaches to Arctic security, with Norway being a long-time vocal advocate for increased NATO engagement while Canada’s approach focuses on national sovereignty. There is also a renewed U.S. interest in Arctic security and presence, with a new or refined Arctic strategy for each branch of the military and the creation of the Department of Defense’s regional Center for Arctic Security Studies in late 2021.[27] The Danish approach, informed by the erosion of its sovereignty on Greenland, recently shifted to support stronger NATO involvement and now conceptualises the Arctic as a “geopolitical battlefield”.[28] As for Iceland, it has no standing army and relies on its NATO membership and on its bilateral defence agreement with the U.S.

Finally, while the Arctic is a natural environment for some of the Allies, it is not the case for the Alliance as a whole. Consequently, there are further concerns that a stronger NATO involvement may draw in outside states with different interests and may further challenge Arctic stability and decision-making.[29]

The notable mention of the High North in NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept as well as the recent shifts in national strategic orientations from Arctic allies and partners, culminating with Sweden and Finland’s membership application submissions, provide a momentum for NATO to unify its approach to its northern flank. Setting clear priorities could benefit both defence collaboration and military diplomacy towards conflict prevention. The following provides a set of pathways that could guide NATO’s High North approach in light of the three main international relations theories.


Three guiding paradigms for NATO’s High North approach

A neo-realist perspective: Finding the right balance between deterrence and defence

This approach may be the first that comes to mind given current circumstances. In the Arctic and generally, renewed mistrust of Russia has urged the need for strengthened deterrence. Growing tensions in the region are seen as resulting from deliberate actions, with Russia strengthening its northern presence and capabilities to continue projecting power in an area where it is still dominant militarily. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine risks Arctic spillover and has placed Russia’s Nordic neighbours on high alert[30]. Indeed, potential for miscalculation and misinterpretation in the European Arctic has increased, with an unpredictable Russia prepared to take greater risks, using the region as its test area and multiplying provocations and airspace incursions (especially in Swedish airspace) on a level not seen since the Cold War.[31] As Russia has been testing Western resolve to counter its ambitions, NATO needs to maintain the credibility of its commitment to mutual defence.[32]

NATO forces have already been strengthening their ability to operate in Arctic land, air, sea and underwater domains through increased large-scale exercises placing a strong focus on interoperability. JFC Norfolk also provides operational level coordination between NATO and national military commands and allows for cross-learning and sharing of national efforts and capabilities.[33] In addition, side initiatives such as the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) are a spearhead for Arctic tactical operations,[34] benefit from greater operational and decision-making flexibility and can integrate into NATO operations.[35] As for US-Euro coordination, the US Second Fleet, back to full-combat status since 2020, operates in the Arctic and has established a Maritime Operations Centre in Keflavik, which also hosts NATO’s air defence system. U.S. nuclear submarines can operate from Norwegian naval bases, and Greenland is home to the US Thule airbase. Finally, Finland and Sweden joining NATO, in addition to bolstering deterrence in the Baltic Sea, would significantly enhance mutual defence by bringing first-rate capabilities (including in air combat, undersea warfare, intelligence, cyber, AI and massive Finnish artillery) and tactical know-how on conducting operations in sub-zero temperatures, with already high levels of interoperability with NATO forces due to long-standing cooperation.[36]

Although Finland and Sweden’s integration now seems to be on the right track, it is still prospective and will not be effective tomorrow. In addition, the reactivation of the Arctic dimension of the West’s military plans is recent and still at an early stage. In particular, NATO has been suffering from a lack of in-depth understanding of its Arctic environment and follows a catching-up logic in terms of power projection, with limited proactive thinking.[37] Experts’ recommendations mention the pressing need for Allies to keep upgrading their Arctic surveillance and situational awareness capabilities in all domains, including space, cyber and maritime domain awareness.[38] In particular, anti-submarine warfare capabilities were left sleeping after the Cold War and need to be further regenerated, especially as the GIUK gap returns to importance. In this regard, it has been suggested that an Arctic surveillance and domain awareness Center of Excellence could be created.[39] In addition, although the Canada-US NORAD partnership has unmatched expertise in Arctic aerospace management and maintains a crucial role in maritime domain awareness,[40] its defensive capabilities need massive modernisation efforts in the Canadian Arctic to catch up with Russian technological developments,[41] and space intelligence sharing should be expanded and facilitated. Overall capability recapitalisation needs for NATO in the Arctic also include aerial patrols and counter-mining operations.[42] NATO forces also need to prepare more proactively for asymmetric tactics and hybrid threats by clearly identifying Russian actions through the lens of full-spectrum warfare and by incorporating these elements into Arctic military exercises.[43]

With this in mind, any strengthening of deterrence policy and capabilities needs to be carefully calibrated to avoid feeding the “arms race” narrative (one example of which being the “icebreaker gap” rhetoric, which recalls the 1950’s “missile gap” argument).[44]

A constructivist approach: Questioning confrontational narratives

Constructivists argue that Arctic security policies are closely connected to the notions of identity, status and recognition, that threat perception in the region is shaped by the general relationship between Allies and Russia –and by their differing assessments of their current and desired state of relations[45] – and that, in a classic case of the security dilemma, [46] defensive policies may be mistaken for offensive policies, which risks leading to an arms race.[47] In particular, Russia’s reopening of military installations is put forward to justify the strengthening of Western capabilities, whereas Russia presents this move as necessary to protect its economic assets and monitor civilian sea traffic.[48] Consequently, the West sees Russia as the “wild card” of the Arctic and a potential factor of instability.[49] According to constructivists, Russian interests in the region should not solely be viewed as a military outpost, and its military presence could be considered as serving a symbolic purpose of recognition as a major regional power.[50] Conversely, Russia’s Arctic stance is informed by its certainty about NATO’s hostile intentions and its long-standing perception that it is already in conflict with the West.[51] More specifically, Russia’s fear of “encirclement” by NATO has become even more topical, both because it has been emphasised and instrumentalised by Moscow to justify its invasion in Eastern Europe and because it has been amplified by the prospect of Finland and Sweden joining NATO.[52]

The crucial role of threat perception and the growing Arctic confrontational narratives should also be analysed in light of the lack of inclusive hard-security governance in the region, as the few existing for a dealing with Arctic military-security affairs either do not convene (e.g. the Arctic Chiefs of Defense forum) or have been excluding Russia (e.g. the Arctic Security Forces Roundtable) since 2014. Moving towards effective conflict prevention would require creating a normative framework allowing for hard-security discussions to set clear Arctic military rules. Because NATO is dual-hatted as both an operational military alliance and a political dialogue structure, previous recommendations have mentioned the possibility for the Alliance to fill the dialogue gap with Russia on Arctic security through currently sleeping mechanisms such as the NATO-Russia Council.

Resuming hard-security cooperation with Russia seems even more remote now than pre-February 2022 –and not necessarily relevant. As for confidence-building measures, they are unlikely to be pertinent again anytime soon given Russia’s general behaviour and instrumentalization of its own alleged threat perception. However, preparing for an eventual return of diplomatic dialogue, even in a distant future, is a necessary step toward Arctic deconfliction. Besides, although there have previously been concerns that discussing hard-security matters could politicise, and thereby jeopardise, Arctic cooperation, recent events leading to the Arctic 7’s decision to pause their Arctic Council work have proven that the region is far from being immune from geopolitical tensions anyway.

Ultimately, a revived military-to-military dialogue could be leveraged to promote transparency and accountability in an effort to decrease the risk of miscalculations from dangerous military practices and to mitigate adverse reactions. In this regard, it has previously been suggested that an Arctic Military Code of Conduct could be agreed upon to define clear peacetime rules specifying which military behaviour should be considered (un)intentional, (il)legitimate or (un)acceptable.[53] Such document would further provide NATO allies with a better understanding of the “tipping points” likely to spark escalation.[54]

A neoliberal institutionalist approach: Enhancing Allied cooperation on Arctic sustainability and climate security

In this approach, Arctic security is considered in its broadest sense and through a multilateral lens. It is interpreted less as a vector of conflict and more as a shared concern. Therefore, governance institutions and cooperation play a major role in highlighting regional challenges and opportunities. Security concerns mostly focus on soft security, e.g. sustainability, human and environmental security.[55]

However, the Arctic Council, the last forum in which Russia and the other Arctic nations — all of whom are NATO members or partners — cooperated effectively, has now been paused for the major part of its work. Other forms of cooperative engagement with Russia have also been adjourned, leaving less room for tension mitigation. Paused diplomatic and scientific cooperation also has devastating consequences on Arctic soft-security concerns. It means higher environmental risks due to gaps in data on the extent and impact of Siberian permafrost thaw. It leaves the Arctic with unmonitored Russian shipping and drilling projects risking transboundary contamination incidents. It also affects Arctic nations’ ability to respond to emergencies. Moreover, as anticipated by analysts[56], Arctic climate security and environmental research agendas risk becoming hyperpoliticized and assessed through the sole lens of national security, strategic competition and implications on power-projection capabilities.

To counter this state-centred trend, the Allies and like-minded need to be creative on sustainable cooperation formats to jointly address shared concerns – namely the reality of a changing Arctic, and climate change as a transnational threat. While enhancing bilateralism and the use of tracks 2 and 1.5 is a good short-term option, a reunified NATO can also offer a more formal platform. Indeed, climate impacts on critical infrastructure, communications network (due to altered space weather)[57],  fisheries and the security of maritime routes are an integral part of NATO’s High North security interests.[58] NATO’s High North agenda should therefore include emissions reduction, environmental protection, scientific research and climate adaptation.

The new NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence (CASCOE), which will be hosted by an Arctic nation –Canada-, is an excellent proactive and flexible framework to implement NATO’s climate action plan in the Arctic. By coordinating with NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation[59] and by enhancing and amplifying existing strategic foresight efforts from academic and military circles, it can improve allies and partners’ awareness of how climate is reshaping the Arctic security landscape in which their military forces operate. It is also a fantastic platform for allied forces to work together and advance toward climate adaptation and mitigation in the region.

Since bolstering NATO’s High North presence means expanding military activity in a hostile and increasingly unstable natural environment, climate adaptation and resilience at the operational level will be key to improved readiness and should be a central consideration in operations planning, procurement practices, assets and installations management as well as training. Indeed, beyond normalising NATO’s presence in the region, Arctic exercises improve the ability of allied forces to safely operate in extreme conditions. Building on teachings from past Arctic exercises and on inter-agency climate modelling efforts, CASCOE can help set standards to adapt air and maritime operations and search and rescue procedures, as well as anticipate adaptation needs for weapon systems via simulation.[60]

Another flip side of the Arctic military build-up is its growing footprint, which risks further damaging an already vulnerable region due to increased GHG emissions and other forms of disruption such as underwater noise pollution. Defence buildings and assets in the High North, for instance, use higher levels of fuel for electricity and heating due to their remote locations and extreme-cold conditions. CASCOE can leverage expertise and provide guidance for allies to mitigate the impact of their Arctic military presence by coordinating emissions reporting, informing investment decisions, and driving innovation towards energy efficient and carbon-neutral technologies.[61] Best practices allies can build on include Canada’s Advanced Microgrids towards Arctic Zero Emissions.[62] Should Sweden and Finland join NATO, their excellent renewable energy sectors and green innovation capacities could also be used to develop more energy-efficient autonomous naval and aerial assets.[63] Importantly, by acting as a standard-setting body in the new technology used (e.g. batteries and charging stations), CASCOE would ensure that interoperability remains at the forefront of NATO’s green engagement.


Conclusion: Policy guidelines towards a strengthened and sustainable Northern commitment

The Arctic has been dealing with a rapidly changing strategic context, due to global tensions spilling over into the region and to climate change acting as a catalyst of interests. Recent regional developments have been challenging NATO’s traditionally cautious approach to the Arctic.

NATO’s High North may be considered as a potential conflict theatre, but remains a very unique one due to the region’s high vulnerability, Arctic states’ interdependencies, the nature of their shared interests and the historical prominence –and persistence- of cooperation efforts. Although Arctic exceptionalism does no longer exist as described in Mikhail Gorbachev’s Murmansk speech (i.e. as a zone of peace and dialogue, immune from geopolitical developments), the region does remain exceptional in its unique way of being affected by conflicts raging elsewhere: less dialogue, less cooperation, less economic engagement. What still remains to be seen is whether current circumstances will further accelerate the ongoing military build-up.

The Arctic presents a classic case study of the security dilemma. However, focusing on not triggering Russia cannot rule out any regional presence for NATO, especially as the aggression of Ukraine is yet another example of Russia instrumentalising its own threat perception. NATO in fact needs to adopt a carefully calibrated approach through expanded presence and dialogue.

With the now crucial importance of deterrence and reassurance, NATO’s efforts should focus on filling existing operational gaps to reinforce its northern flank and increase regional predictability and stability. This includes enhancing its Arctic domain awareness and strengthening its exercising capabilities and interoperability[64] – as the key to deterrence is to coordinate. While being clear-sighted on existing (especially hybrid) threats and on great powers’ regional ambitions, policy-makers should avoid spreading alarmist discourses and confrontational narratives. Extra efforts should also be considered to address coincidence of misunderstandings and unintended escalation risks. This involves transparency and risk-reduction mechanisms as well as innovative hard-security dialogue frameworks between the like-minded, until an eventual return to a more favourable political environment allows for a more inclusive approach.

Ultimately, NATO’s High North security commitment should be a holistic one, with acute awareness of Arctic climate risks and with increased efforts toward adaptation and emissions reduction. The High North can be a test bed for NATO to advance its climate engagement. The new CASCOE can serve as a standard-setting tool and coordination platform and can provide guidance for allies and partners to operate sustainably in the region. This means adapting their weapons systems and operations to changing extreme conditions and mitigating their Arctic military footprint.



[1] Jens Stoltenberg quoted by Larisa Brown, « Climate change risks new cold war in Arctic, warns NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, The Times, 19 March 2021, >>

[2] Stoltenberg, Jens. Interview by Paul Taylor, “Interview with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg”, Friends of Europe, 13 may 2020, <>

[3] “Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization”, NATO, 19-20 November 2010,

[4] One of two Strategic Commands at the head of NATO’s military command structure, “responsible for ensuring NATO’s military structure and capabilities remain relevant, capable and credible in a rapidly changing world”. See “Allied Command Transformation”, NATO,, last updated 23 Sept. 2021

[5] “NATO Climate Change and Security Action Plan”, NATO, 14 June 2021,

[6] “Regional perspectives report on the Arctic”, NATO Allied Command Transformation, April 2021,

[7] A term first coined by the U.S. Center for Naval Analyses’ Military Advisory Board (“National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” Sherri Goodman et al., 2007) to describe the intersection between climate change and other intervening security factors.

[8] In 2008, the United Stated Geological Survey assessed the circumpolar area and concluded that it may contain approximately 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil resources and 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas resources. See  “Assessment of undiscovered oil and gas in the arctic” in Science, vol. 324 no. 5931 pp 1175-1179, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 29 May 2009, <>

[9]  Particularly in Greenland and Russia

[10] Humpert, Malte, “Cargo Volume on Northern Sea Route Reaches 35m Tons, Record Number of Transits”, High North News, 26 Jan 2022:

[11] Gunnarsson, Björn. “Ten Years of International Shipping on the Northern Sea Route: Trends and Challenges”, Arctic Review on Law and Politics, Vol. 12, 2021, pp. 4–30, 8 Feb 2021:

[12] Remarks made during a workshop held under the Chatham House Rule in June 2022

[13] Andreas Østhagen, « The Nuances of Geopolitics in the Arctic”, The Arctic Institute, 7 January 2020, <>

[14] Boulègue, Mathieu, “The militarization of Russian polar politics”, Chatham House, 6 June 2022, DOI: 10.55317/9781784135256

[15] Marc Lanteigne (speaker), « Competition and Cooperation: The Interests of China and Russia in the Arctic Region”, Conference, International Centre for Defense and Security – EESTI Estonia, 10 November 2020

[16] Marc Lanteigne. Personal interview. 20 August 2021.

[17] Jason Li, “A Shifting Focus of U.S. Arctic Policy: China and Security, Front and Center”, The Arctic Institute, 21 August 2020, < ttps://>

[18] A buffer zone between the US and Russia, the Arctic was at the epicenter of the confrontation -and heavily militarized- during the Cold War.

[19] Elana Wilson Rowe, « Analyzing frenemies: An Arctic repertoire of cooperation and rivalry”, Political Geography, Volume 76, January 2020, 102072, ISSN 0962-6298, & Maxime Ditters (superv. Lill Rastad Bjørst), « Russian Foreign Policy-Making in the Arctic: a Critical Analysis of the Influence of the Ukraine Crisis”, Aalborg Universitet, 2018

[20] Namely Canada, the U.S. (via Alaska), Denmark (via Greenland), Iceland and Norway.

[21] Andreas Østhagen, “The Arctic security region: misconceptions and contradictions”, Polar Geography, 44:1, 55-74, 2021

[22] Remarks made during a workshop held under the Chatham House Rule in June 2022

[23] “NATO’s new Atlantic command declared operational”, NATO, 17 September 2020, <>

[24] “NATO 2022 Strategic Concept”, NATO, adopted on 29 June 2022

[25] Andreas Østhagen. Personal interview. 27 August 2021 & Andreas Østhagen, Gregory Levi Sharp & Paal Sigurd Hilde “At Opposite Poles: Canada’s and Norway’s approaches to security in the Arctic”, The Polar Journal, 8:1, 163-181, 31 July 2018

[26] Rene Heise. Personal interview. 1 September 2021

[27] Sfraga, Mike, “The New North”, The Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2022.

[28] Jacobsen, Marc, “Arctic Aspects in Denmark’s New Foreign and Security Policy Strategy”, The Arctic Institute, 8 Feb 2022:

[29] Pincus, Rebecca, “NATO North? Building a role for NATO in the Arctic”, War on the Rocks, 6 Nov 2019:

[30] Quil, Lawrence, “NATO troops conducted a routine war exercise in the Arctic. This year felt different », NPR, 15 April 2022 :

[31] Maddox, Marisol, quoted by Shreiber, Melody and DeGeorge, Krestia, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have spillover effects in the Arctic”, ArcticToday, 24 Feb 2022:

[32] Eugene Rumer, Richard Sokolsky, Paul Stronski, « Russia in the Arctic—A Critical Examination”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 29 March 2021, <>

[33] Laird, Robin and Timperlake, Ed, “Re-shaping North Atlantic Defense: JFC Norfolk as a Startup Command”, 4 July 2021, Second Line of Defense:

[34] Mathieu Boulègue. Personal interview. 16 August 2021

[35] Conrad Beckett, “Ready to Respond: What is the JEF?”, Strategic Command – UK Ministry of Defence, 11 May 2021, & Levon Sevunts, “UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force will have ramifications for Arctic security: experts”, Radio Canada International, 13 February 2017

[36] Germanovichn Gene, “Complex—but Promising—Prospects as Finland and Sweden Mull NATO Membership”, RAND, 3 March 2022 & Hackett, James, “Finland, Sweden and NATO: the capability dimension”, IISS, May 2022: & Khorrami, Nima, “By Merely Entertaining NATO Membership, Sweden Has Changed”, Wilson Center, 3 May 2022,

[37] Mathieu Boulègue. Personal interview. 16 August 2021

[38] Boulègue, Mathieu, “Voices from the North” podcast, Atlantic Council

[39] Mathieu Boulègue, “Russia’s Military Posture in the Arctic Managing Hard Power in a ‘Low Tension’ Environment”, Chatham House, June 2019

[40] Troy Bouffard and Elizabeth Buchanan, « Establishing an Arctic Security Institution: Essentials from NORAD and NATO”, Strategy Bridge, 3 March 2020

[41] Bastien Alex, Hervé Baudu, Jean-Paul Vanderlinden, et al., “Bulletin mensuel N°10”, Observatoire de l’Arctique, March 2020, p3-4 & Rob Huebert interviewed in “War in Ukraine has implications for Arctic co-operation, climate change research”, CBC News, 24 Feb 2022

[42] Boulègue, Mathieu, “Voices from the North” podcast, Atlantic Council

[43] Heather A. Conley, Colin Wall, “Hybrid threats in the Arctic: Scenarios and policy options in a vulnerable region”, Hybrid CoE, August 2021

[44] Paul Taylor, “After the ice: the Arctic and European security”, Friends of Europe, Autumn 2020,

[45] Giles, Keir, “What deters Russia”, Chatham House, 23 Sept 2021, ISBN: 978 1 78413 489 1

[46] i.e. “a situation in which states’ actions taken to ensure their own security tend to threaten the security of other states”, which in turn causes conflicts to arise. See Goldstein & Pevehouse, quoted by Miriam Dornan, “Realist and Constructivist Approaches to Anarchy”, 29 August 2011

[47] Isabelle Facon, « La menace militaire russe : une évaluation », Les Champs de Mars N° 29, no 1 (2017): 31‑57,

[48] Marc Lanteigne, « Great Powers in the Arctic: Changing Perspectives > Articles | », décembre 2020, consulté le 11 mars 2021,

[49] Pauline Pic, Frédéric Lasserre, « Un paradigme arctique de sécurité ? Pour une lecture géopolitique du complexe régional de sécurité. », L’Espace Politique [En ligne], 33 | 2017-3, 8 march 2018, URL : ; DOI :

[50] Jakub Godzimirski & Alexander Sergunin. “Russian Expert and Official Geopolitical Narratives on the Arctic: Decoding Topical and Paradigmatic DNA » Arctic Review on Law and Politics, Vol. 11, 2020, pp. 22–46.

[51] Julie Wilhelmsen and Anni Roth Hjermann, “Russian Certainty of NATO Hostility: Repercussions in the Arctic”, Arctic Review on Law and Politics Vol. 13, 2022, pp. 114–142, March 2022

[52] Boulègue, Mathieu, “The militarization of Russian polar politics”, Chatham House, 6 June 2022, DOI: 10.55317/9781784135256

[53] Mathieu Boulègue and Duncan Depledge, “It Is Time to Negotiate a New Military Security Architecture for the Arctic”, 16 April 2021, Wilson Center – Polar Institute,

[54] Simona R. Soare, « ARCTIC STRESS TEST: Great power competition and Euro-Atlantic defence in the High North » (European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), 2020),

[55] Pauline Pic et Frédéric Lasserre, « Un paradigme arctique de sécurité ? Pour une lecture géopolitique du complexe régional de sécurité. », in L’Espace Politique, 33 | 2017-3,  8 March 2018, accessed on 27 January 2021, <>

[56] Raspotnik, Andreas and Khorrami, Nima, “Great Power Competition Is Coming for the Arctic. NATO Should Prepare. », World Politics Review, 29 March 2022

[57] Rene Heise. Personal interview. 1 September 2021

[58] Buchanan, Elizabeth, “Cool Change ahead? NATO’s Strategic Concept and the High North”, NATO Defense College Research Division, 14 April 2022

[59]“NATO research on Arctic regions obtains a significant dataset”, NATO STO, 1 August 2021

[60] Rene Heise, “NATO is responding to new challenges posed by climate change”, NATO Review, 1 April 2021

[61] Sherri Goodman and Katarina Kertysova, “NATO: An unexpected driver of climate action?”, NATO Review, 1 Feb 2022

[62] “DRDC sets AMAZE-ing goal to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Arctic facilities”, Government of Canada, 17 Dec 2020

[63] Khorrami, Nima, “By Merely Entertaining NATO Membership, Sweden Has Changed”, Wilson Center, 3 May 2022,

[64] Mathieu Boulègue, interview by Cyrille Bret, “Arctique : les ambitions russes », EurAsia Prospective, 4 July 2019,
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