March 11, 2014

Seminar on the Strategic Implications of Developments in the Arctic

On 7 March 2014, a seminar was held at ICDS on “Strategic Implications of Developments in the Arctic”. The event featured Niklas Granholm, Deputy Director of Studies at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), Ahto Lobjakas, Analyst at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, and Kalle Olli, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu. The seminar was attended by about 30 people, and it was moderated by Pauli Järvenpää, Senior Fellow at ICDS.

11.03.2014
On 7 March 2014, a seminar was held at ICDS on “Strategic Implications of Developments in the Arctic”. The event featured Niklas Granholm, Deputy Director of Studies at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), Ahto Lobjakas, Analyst at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, and Kalle Olli, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu. The seminar was attended by about 30 people, and it was moderated by Pauli Järvenpää, Senior Fellow at ICDS.
It was agreed that one thing is certain in the Arctic: the region faces environmental challenges that affect us all. Global warming makes the northern polar region increasingly accessible, and that development is irreversible. It is only a question of time but it will happen. A crucial question is whether or not the Arctic will be a setting for competition, even military build-up, or if the region will be managed so that the opportunities lying there will be used to the benefit of us all.
In the future, we will witness accessibility in the Arctic to resources (minerals and hydrocarbons, in particular) and trade routes; to better conditions for fishing, agriculture and forestry; and to even tourism to an extent never experienced before. The likely shifts in global maritime trade routes and the presence of resources will guarantee the strategic value of the Arctic region for decades to come.
Given increasing activities by several states in the region, much of the Seminar discussion focused on whether or not the present governance and cooperation arrangements in place (especially the Arctic Council and UNCLOS) can ensure peace and stability in the future. Several states, including Russia, have plans to increase their military presence and activities in the Arctic. Greater military activity as such does not necessarily suggest impending conflict. On the other hand, now that the Arctic is not yet witnessing competitive militarization, it would be high time to create a common security architecture for the region.
During the discussion, the question was raised whether or not Estonia should develop a more proactive approach to its Arctic policy, or if it should have an Arctic strategy like so many nations have developed or are in the process of developing. For example, such countries as Italy, China, India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore have attained a status of a permanent observer at the Arctic Council. What should the main objective of Estonia be? Would applying for a permanent observer status be a constructive step ahead for Estonia?
Judging from the lively discussion these questions elicited in the audience, it might be time for Estonia to reconsider its Arctic policy.
Pauli Järvenpää, ICDS
Download: Audio (mp3)

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