The EU, Russia and the Future of European Security: Conflict Prevention and Regional Cooperation in the Arctic
The Arctic has long been considered as an area of low military tension with a potential for sub-regional cooperation, especially in jointly developing energy resources in the High North. Receding polar ice, as a result of climate change, has created even more opportunities in this respect. It also encourages more intensive use of the Northern Sea Route (NSR), which is gradually opening up for navigation for ever bigger parts of the year. However, the Arctic region is no longer exempt from broader geopolitical tensions. Recognising these changes, some individual EU Member States (the UK, Netherlands, Germany) have recently published white papers or other policy documents on Arctic security and the Finnish EU Presidency is pushing for better coordination and possibly a renewed EU Arctic strategy. Although the risk of a military conflict originating in the Arctic could still be considered relatively low, this would not exclude military spillover effects from conflicts elsewhere or misunderstandings concerning incidents at sea or in the air, with the potential for escalation. In this context, this paper looks into options for conflict prevention and regional security cooperation in the Arctic, which the EU and Russia could jointly undertake in a number of different, multilateral frameworks.