The Arctic and Geopolitics

  • David A. WelchEmail author


The Arctic is completely uninteresting geopolitically from a traditional security perspective, and while it is interesting from a nontraditional security perspective, it is truly important only in the one respect that just so happens to attract the least attention and action from policymakers.‌ Moreover, it is the one respect that forces us to look in the other direction.‌ Security is not at stake in any meaningful sense in the Arctic, but is very much at stake because of it.‌


  1. “10 Largest Cities Within the Arctic Circle”. 2011. The World Geography.
  2. Adler, Emanuel, and Michael Barnett. 1998. Security Communities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aksenov, Yevgeny, Ekaterina E. Popova, Andrew Yool, A.J. George Nurser, Timothy D. Williams, Laurent Bertino, and Jon Bergh. 2017. On the Future Navigability of Arctic Sea Routes: High-resolution Projections of the Arctic Ocean and Sea Ice. Marine Policy 75: 300–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barry, Roger G. 2017. The Arctic Cryosphere in the Twenty-First Century. Geographical Review 107 (1): 69–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. “Battle for the Arctic Heats Up”. (2009) 2010. CBC News, August 20, 2009.
  6. Buzan, Barry, Ole Wæver, and Jaap de Wilde. 1997. Security: A New Framework for Analysis. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  7. Byers, Michael. 2010. Who Owns the Arctic? Understanding Sovereignty Disputes in the North. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre.Google Scholar
  8. Choi, Minjoo, Hyun Chung, Hajime Yamaguchi, and Keisuke Nagakawa. 2015. Arctic Sea Route Path Planning Based on an Uncertain Ice Prediction Model. Cold Regions Science and Technology 109: 61–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ciută, Felix, and Ian Klinke. 2010. Lost in Conceptualization: Reading the “New Cold War” with Critical Geopolitics. Political Geography 29 (6): 323–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clausewitz, Carl von. 1993. On War. Translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  11. Connolly, Ronan, Michael Connolly, and Willie Soon. 2017. Re-calibration of Arctic Sea Ice Extent Datasets Using Arctic Surface Air Temperature Records. Hydrological Sciences Journal 62 (8): 1317–1340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dalby, Simon, and Gearóid Ó. Tuathail. 1998. Rethinking Geopolitics. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Daudelin, John, and Fen Osler Hampson. 1999. Human Security and Development Policy. Ottawa: CIDA Policy Branch Strategic Planning Division.Google Scholar
  14. Daveluy, Michelle, Francis Lévesque, and Jenanne Ferguson, eds. 2011. Humanizing Security in the Arctic. Edmonton: CCI Press.Google Scholar
  15. Davis, Jeff. 2009. Liberal-Era Diplomatic Language Killed Off. Embassy. Ottawa, July 1.
  16. Dodds, Klaus. 2007. Geopolitics: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dodds, Klaus, and James D. Sidaway. 2004. Halford Mackinder and the ‘Geographical Pivot of History’: A Centennial Retrospective. The Geographical Journal 170 (4, Dec.): 292–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Duhaime, Gérard, ed. 2002. Sustainable Food Security in the Arctic: State of Knowledge. Edmonton: CCI Press.Google Scholar
  19. Duhaime, Gérard, and Nick Bernard, eds. 2008. Arctic Food Security. Edmonton: CCI Press.Google Scholar
  20. Exner-Pirot, Heather. 2013. What is the Arctic a Case of? The Arctic as a Regional Environmental Security Complex and the Implications for Policy. The Polar Journal 3 (1): 120–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gent, Peter R. 2018. A Commentary on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation Stability in Climate Models. Ocean Modelling 122: 57–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Greaves, Wilfrid. 2016. Arctic (In)security and Indigenous Peoples: Comparing Inuit in Canada and Sámi in Norway. Security Dialogue 47 (6): 461–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Greene, Charles H., and Bruce C. Monger. 2012. An Arctic Wild Card in the Weather. Oceanography 25 (2, June): 7–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Handel, Michael I. 1992. Masters of War: Sun tzu, Clausewitz, and Jomini. London: Frank Cass.Google Scholar
  25. Hansen, James, and Makiko Sato. 2012. Update of Greenland Ice Sheet Mass Loss: Exponential?, December 26.
  26. Hansen, James, Makiko Sato, Gary Russell, and Pushker Kharecha. 2013. Climate Sensitivity, Sea Level, and Atmospheric CO2. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 371 (Aug.): 1–31.Google Scholar
  27. Headland, R.K. 2010. Ten Decades of Transits of the Northwest Passage. Polar Geography 33 (1–2): 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Heininen, Lassi, and Heather N. Nicol. 2007. The Importance of Northern Dimension Foreign Policies in the Geopolitics of the Circumpolar North. Geopolitics 12 (1): 133–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ho, Joshua. 2011. The Opening of the Northern Sea Route. Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India 7 (1): 106–120.Google Scholar
  30. Holmes, Terence M. 2007. Planning versus Chaos in Clausewitz’s On War. Journal of Strategic Studies 30 (1): 129–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Howard-Hassmann, Rhoda E. 2012. Human Security: Undermining Human Rights? Human Rights Quarterly 34 (1): 88–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Howell, Stephen E.L., Adrienne Tivy, John J. Yackel, and Steve McCourt. 2008. Multi-year Sea-Ice Conditions in the Western Canadian Arctic Archipelago Region of the Northwest Passage: 1968–2006. Atmosphere-Ocean 46 (2): 229–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Huebert, Rob. 2011. Submarines, Oil Tankers, and Icebreakers: Trying to Understand Canadian Arctic Sovereignty and Security. International Journal 66 (4): 809–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Huebert, Robert N. 2009. Canadian Arctic Sovereignty and Security in a Transforming Circumpolar World. Toronto: Canadian International Council, 1 electronic text (43 p.) digital file.Google Scholar
  35. Hynek, Nikola, and David Bosold. 2010. Canada’s Foreign & Security Policy: Soft and Hard Strategies of a Middle Power. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Ingimundarson, Valur. 2014. Managing a Contested Region: The Arctic Council and the Politics of Arctic Governance. The Polar Journal 4 (1): 183–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Islam, M. Rezaul, and Niaz Ahmed Khan. 2018. Threats, Vulnerability, Resilience and Displacement among the Climate Change and Natural Disaster-Affected People in South-East Asia: An Overview. Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy 23 (2): 297–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kageyama, Masa, André Paul, Didier M. Roche, and Cédric J. Van Meerbeeck. 2010. Modelling Glacial Climatic Millennial-Scale Variability Related to Changes in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: A Review. Quaternary Science Reviews 29 (21–22): 2931–2956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kelly, Phil. 2006. A Critique of Critical Geopolitics. Geopolitics 11 (1): 24–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Khon, V., I. Mokhov, M. Latif, V. Semenov, and W. Park. 2010. Perspectives of Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage in the Twenty-First Century. Climatic Change 100 (3–4): 757–768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kinnard, Christophe, Christian M. Zdanowicz, David A. Fisher, Elisabeth Isaksson, Anne de Vernal, and Lonnie G. Thompson. 2011. Reconstructed Changes in Arctic Sea Ice over the Past 1,450 Years. Nature 479 (7374, Nov.): 509-U231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Knecht, Sebastian, and Kathrin Keil. 2013. Arctic Geopolitics Revisited: Spatialising Governance in the Circumpolar North. The Polar Journal 3 (1): 178–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lasserre, Frédéric. 2011. Arctic Shipping Routes: From the Panama Myth to Reality. International Journal 66 (4): 793–808.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. ———. 2014. Case Studies of Shipping along Arctic Routes. Analysis and Profitability Perspectives for the Container Sector. Transportation Research Part A 66: 144–161.Google Scholar
  45. Lee, Sung-Woo. 2012. Potential Arctic Shipping: Change, Benefit, Risk and Cooperation. In The Arctic in World Affairs: A North Pacific Dialogue on Arctic Marine Issues, ed. Oran R. Young, Jong Deog Kim, and Yoon Hyung Kim, 39–67. Seoul and Honolulu: Korea Maritime Institute and East-West Center.Google Scholar
  46. Levermann, Anders, Peter U. Clark, Ben Marzeion, Glenn A. Milne, David Pollard, Valentina Radic, and Alexander Robinson. 2013. The Multimillennial Sea-Level Commitment of Global Warming. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110 (34, Aug.): 13745–13750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Liddell Hart, B.H. 1929. The Decisive Wars of History: A Study in Strategy. London: G. Bell.Google Scholar
  48. Liu, Miaojia, and Jacob Kronbak. 2010. The Potential Economic Viability of Using the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as an Alternative Route between Asia and Europe. Journal of Transport Geography 18 (3): 434–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Livina, V.N., and T.M. Lenton. 2013. A Recent Tipping Point in the Arctic Sea-Ice Cover: Abrupt and Persistent Increase in the Seasonal Cycle since 2007. Cryosphere 7 (1): 275–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lovelock, James. 2006a. The Earth is about to Catch a Morbid Fever that May Last as Long as 100,000 Years. The Independent, January 16.
  51. ———. 2006b. The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate in Crisis and the Fate of Humanity. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  52. Lovelock, James E., and Lynn Margulis. 1974. Atmospheric Homeostasis By and For the Biosphere: The Gaia Hypothesis. Tellus 26 (2, May): 1–9.Google Scholar
  53. Lukovich, Jennifer, and Gordon McBean. 2009. Addressing Human Security in the Arctic in the Context of Climate Change Through Science and Technology. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 14 (8): 697–710.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Mackinder, H.J. 1904. The Geographical Pivot of History. The Geographical Journal 23 (4, Apr.): 421–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Mahan, A.T. 1890. The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783. London: S. Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington.Google Scholar
  56. Moe, Arild. 2012. Potential Arctic Oil and Gas Development: What are Realistic Expectations? In The Arctic in World Affairs: A North Pacific Dialogue on Arctic Marine Issues, ed. Oran R. Young, Jong Deog Kim, and Yoon Hyung Kim, 227–251. Seoul and Honolulu: Korea Maritime Institute and East-West Center.Google Scholar
  57. Mooney, Chris. 2013. More Wildfires = More Warming = More Wildfires. Mother Jones, July 29.
  58. Morgan, Dennis Ray. 2009. World on Fire: Two Scenarios of the Destruction of Human Civilization and Possible Extinction of the Human Race. Futures 41 (10): 683–693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Paris, Roland. 2004. Human Security: Paradigm Shift or Hot Air? In New Global Dangers: Changing Dimensions of International Security, ed. Michael Brown et al., 249–264. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  60. Pettersen, Trude. 2013. Preparing for Record Season on the Northern Sea Route. Barents Observer.
  61. Rignot, E., I. Velicogna, M.R. van den Broeke, A. Monaghan, and J. Lenaerts. 2011. Acceleration of the Contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets to Sea Level Rise. Geophysical Research Letters 38 (L05503, Mar.): 1–5.Google Scholar
  62. “Rock Bottom”. 2012. The Economist, March 7.Google Scholar
  63. Scassola, Andrea. 2013. All Is Well in the High North? Contemporary Sources of Tension in the Arctic. New Global Studies 7 (2): 183–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Schach, Michael, and Reinhard Madlener. 2018. Impacts of an Ice-Free Northeast Passage on LNG Markets and Geopolitics. Energy Policy 122: 438–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Schaefer, Kevin, Tingjun Zhang, Lori Bruhwiler, and Andrew P. Barrett. 2011. Amount and Timing of Permafrost Carbon Release in Response to Climate Warming. Tellus Series B-Chemical and Physical Meteorology 63 (2, Apr.): 165–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schleussner, Carl-Friedrich, Delphine Deryng, Sarah D’Haen, William Hare, Tabea Lissner, Mouhamed Ly, Alexander Nauels, et al. 2018. 1.5°C Hotspots: Climate Hazards, Vulnerabilities, and Impacts. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 43: 135–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schofield, B.B. 1977. The Arctic Convoys. London: Macdonald and Jane’s.Google Scholar
  68. Schøyen, Halvor, and Svein Bråthen. 2011. The Northern Sea Route versus the Suez Canal: Cases from Bulk Shipping. Journal of Transport Geography 19 (4, July): 977–983.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sommerkorn, Martin, and Susan Joy Hassol, eds. 2009. Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications. Oslo: World Wildlife Fund International Arctic Programme.Google Scholar
  70. Sun-Tzu. 2009. The Art of War. Translated by John Minford. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  71. Swain, Richard. 1990. B. H. Liddell Hart and the Creation of a Theory of War, 1919–1933. Armed Forces & Society 17 (1): 35–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Theocharis, Dimitrios, Stephen Pettit, Vasco Sanchez Rodrigues, and Jane Haider. 2018. Arctic Shipping: A Systematic Literature Review of Comparative Studies. Journal of Transport Geography 69: 112–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Tseng, Po-Hsing, and Kevin Cullinane. 2018. Key Criteria Influencing the Choice of Arctic Shipping: A Fuzzy Analytic Hierarchy Process Model. Maritime Policy & Management 45 (4): 422–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Tuathail, Gearóid Ó., Simon Dalby, and Paul Routledge, eds. 2006. The Geopolitics Reader. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  75. United Nations Development Program. 1995. Human Development Report 1994. Oxford University Press for the United Nations Development Program.
  76. Verny, Jerome, and Christophe Grigentin. 2009. Container Shipping on the Northern Sea Route. International Journal of Production Economics 122 (1): 107–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Victor, David G., Amy Jaffe, and Mark H. Hayes, eds. 2006. Natural Gas and Geopolitics: From 1970 to 2040. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  78. Vitousek, Sean. 2017. What is the Cost of One Meter of Sea Level Rise? Union of Concerned Scientists, July 19.
  79. Voigt, Carolina, Richard E. Lamprecht, Maija E. Marushchak, Saara E. Lind, Alexander Novakovskiy, Mika Aurela, Pertti J. Martikainen, and Christina Biasi. 2017. Warming of Subarctic Tundra Increases Emissions of All Three Important Greenhouse Gases—Carbon Dioxide, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide. Global Change Biology 23 (8): 3121–3138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Waits, Audrey, Anastasia Emelyanova, Antti Oksanen, Khaled Abass, and Arja Rautio. 2018. Human Infectious Diseases and the Changing Climate in the Arctic. Environment International 121 (Part 1): 703–713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Wesche, Sonia, and Hing Chan. 2010. Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change on Food Security among Inuit in the Western Canadian Arctic. EcoHealth 7 (3): 361–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wood, Jason D. 2008. Clausewitz in the Caliphate: Center of Gravity in the Post–9/11 Security Environment. Comparative Strategy 27 (1): 44–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Woodruff, Sierra, Todd K. BenDor, and Aaron L. Strong. 2018. Fighting the Inevitable: Infrastructure Investment and Coastal Community Adaptation to Sea Level Rise. System Dynamics Review 34 (1–2): 48–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Xu, Hua, Zhifang Yin, Dashan Jia, Fengjun Jin, and Hua Ouyang. 2011. The Potential Seasonal Alternative of Asia–Europe Container Service via Northern Sea Route under the Arctic Sea Ice Retreat. Maritime Policy & Management 38 (5): 541–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

Personalised recommendations