POLI 369B(3): International Politics of the Arctic (Fall 2016)
For decades, the Arctic was on the front-lines of the Cold War. Today, the region is changing at an unprecedented rate due to climate change, shipping, the extraction of natural resources, and the efforts of coastal states to secure offshore jurisdictional claims. This upper-year undergraduate course canvasses a range of political and legal issues, from the disputes over Hans Island and the boundary in the Beaufort Sea, to shipping in the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route, to the assertion of sovereign rights over areas of seabed more than 200 nautical miles from shore, to the protection of high seas fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. The environmental, security and geopolitical dimensions of a rapidly opening Arctic will also be considered, along with the role of indigenous peoples and the Arctic Council.
I once met a bear while hiking in the Rocky Mountains. A big bear, who squinted at me and sniffed the air. When I backed away, he followed me, muscles rippling beneath a grizzled hump.
With no trees to climb, I began to talk. “Good morning, Mr. Bear,” I said, and asked about his health. I commented on the weather, told him of my plans and, after a minute of idle chatter, he shrugged and wandered off the path.
I was reminded of this encounter when, last month, Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion announced a shift in foreign policy. From now on, Canada will seek to actively co-operate with Russia in the Arctic.
After a week of meetings in Portland, Arctic officials have put the final touches on an agreement to collaborate on research.
Penelope Overton, Portland Press Herald, 8 October 2016
The Arctic Council is preparing a treaty to be signed in the spring to promote scientific cooperation among the eight Arctic nations, a move that would benefit Maine scientists who need access to Russian territory and research for their work on topics ranging from climate change to how oil changes when it’s exposed to severe cold.
David Balton, the United States’ ambassador to the council and the chairman of the council’s senior Arctic officials, hailed it as a groundbreaking agreement. The officials have been meeting all week in Portland to discuss policy issues that affect Arctic nations.
“We are trying to allow Arctic science to be science without borders,” Balton said Friday, the final day of the conference. “Not all science proceeds as smoothly in the Arctic as we might like yet. There are restrictions, particularly in Russia, about entry and exit of scientists from other nations, and their material and data. With this, all the nations in the Arctic will allow much more freedom to conduct science.”
Speech written by Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, marking the 20th anniversary of the Arctic Council
September 29, 2016 - Ottawa, Ontario
As we gather today at Carleton University to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Arctic Council, let us take stock of what the North means to Canadians.
The North, covering 40 percent of our territory and home to more than 100,000 inhabitants, of whom more than half are Indigenous, is at the heart of our identity.
Yes, we have a northern soul: “The true north strong and free.” Few places on earth evoke more glorious images than the North. It is the land of the aurora, where the northern lights dance across the darkened sky at nightfall, and the land of the midnight sun and of polar days that go on forever under light that never fades.
Special Report edited by John Higginbotham & Jennifer Spence and published on September 29, 2016
This report stems from a CIGI round table, Revitalizing Canada’s Arctic Policy, held on November 27, 2015, at Carleton University — shortly after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new Liberal Government took power and not long after Canada completed its term as chair of the Arctic Council. The round table, which was supported by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and Global Affairs Canada, brought together a dozen of Canada’s leading Arctic experts.
The measures to improve security and safety include a best-practice guide for cruise ships travelling in Canada’s Arctic waters as well a probable tightening of regulations for smaller vessels travelling in the Northwest Passage.
After two years without drillings, Norway’s oil major again looks north.
Thomas Nilsen, Independent Barents Observer, 30 August 2016
“Exploration on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, needed and necessary – a Barents Sea deep dive,” was the title when Statoil on Tuesday announced its active drilling program at ONS, Norway’s largest oil conference- and exhibition taking place in Stavanger.
The Barents Sea campaign next year will include five to seven drillings.
Over the last few months, Statoil has increased its share in five licenses in the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea. Agreements are signed with companies like ConocoPhillips, OMW, DEA and Point Resources.
Drillings will take place at different locations, including a new test-well at Goliat, where Statoil partners with ENI Norge at the only oil-field in production in the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea. Another drilling for 2017 will take place at the Korpfjell formation near Norway’s maritime border to Russia.
The Korpfjell formation will be one of the northernmost drillings ever made in Norwegian Arctic waters.
Statoil writes in a press-note that new and significant discoveries are crucial in order to maintain production on the Norwegian continental shelf at the current level until 2030 and after that. Areas off the coast of northern Norway will play a pivotal role in achieving this objective.
Statoil underlines that all planned drillings depend on permissions from the authorities.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is committed to maintaining peaceful relations with Arctic nations while exploring the Arctic's largely untapped resources.
"The Arctic must be regarded as a space for an open and equitable dialogue...where there will be no place for geopolitical games by military blocs, backstage deals, or struggle for spheres of influence," Putin said in a message read to Arctic Council members on August 30 by Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.
Russia is hosting a council meeting onboard a Russian nuclear icebreaker crossing the Arctic Ocean to the port of Pevek.
"Russia will remain committed to the peaceful development of the region, provided its own national interests are observed and the interests of all other countries unconditionally respected," Putin said. Stable development of the Arctic is becoming especially important, he said.
"As a matter of fact, the prosperity not only of the Arctic states but a number of other states depends on it," he said.
Patrushev said some differences have emerged over development of the continental shelves that extend beyond Russia, Canada, Alaska, and other areas into the sea, but these differences can be resolved peacefully.
Visit of giant cruise ship will bring money and tourists to the Northwest Passage, but fears grow for the area’s people and its ecosystem
Robin McKie, Observer science editor, 21 August 2016
In a few days, one of the world’s largest cruise ships, the Crystal Serenity, will visit the tiny Inuit village of Ulukhaktok in northern Canada. Hundreds of passengers will be ferried to the little community, more than doubling its population of around 400. The Serenity will then raise anchor and head through the Northwest Passage to visit several more Inuit settlements before sailing to Greenland and finally New York.
It will be a massive undertaking, representing an almost tenfold increase in passenger numbers taken through the Arctic on a single vessel – and it has triggered considerable controversy among Arctic experts. Inuit leaders fear that visits by giant cruise ships could overwhelm fragile communities, while others warn that the Arctic ecosystem, already suffering the effects of global warming, could be seriously damaged.
“This is extinction tourism,” said international law expert Professor Michael Byers, of the University of British Columbia. “Making this trip has only become possible because carbon emissions have so warmed the atmosphere that Arctic sea ice in summer is disappearing. The terrible irony is that this ship – which even has a helicopter for sightseeing and a huge staff-to-passenger ratio – has an enormous carbon footprint that is only going to make things even worse in the Arctic.”