October 8, 2023

The Changing Geopolitics of The Arctic


"The Scramble for the Poles: The Geopolitics of the Arctic and Antarctic" By Klaus Dodds and Mark Nuttall (2015).

Description of the book from Amazon:

In August 2007 a Russian flag was planted under the North Pole during a scientific expedition triggering speculation about a new scramble for resources beneath the thawing ice.

But is there really a global grab for Polar territory and resources? Or are these activities vastly exaggerated? In this rich and wide-ranging book, Klaus Dodds and Mark Nuttall look behind the headlines and hyperbole to reveal a complex picture of the so-called scramble for the poles. Whilst anxieties over the potential for conflict and the destruction of what is often perceived as the world's last wildernesses have come to dominate Polar debates and are, to some extent, justified, their study also highlights longer historical and geographical patterns and processes of human activity in these remote territories. Over the past century, Polar landscapes have been probed, drilled, fished, tested on and dug up, as their indigenous populations have struggled to protect their rights and interests.

No longer remote places, or themselves 'poles apart' from one another, the contemporary geopolitics of the Polar regions has lessons for us all as we confront a warming world where access to resources is a concern for states, big and small.

An excerpt from, "UK Releases Updated Arctic Policy Incorporating New Realities Of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine" by Malte Humpert, High North News, February 10, 2023:

As the Arctic “closest neighbor” the UK sees itself with legitimate interests for the region’s environment, security, and prosperity. 

The new framework emphasizes how Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has fundamentally shifted the region away from a low tension environment and has undermined the peaceful cooperation of the Arctic Council, to which the UK is an observer state. 

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 changed the context for UK-Russia cooperation on Arctic issues,” the report states. 

Climate change and the melting of sea ice underpins a lot of the new challenges and opportunities in the region with access to resources and new shipping routes increasing geopolitical interests and competition in the region.

For decades, Russia and other nations collaborated on scientific and environmental issues in the Arctic. Now, there's concern that Finland and Sweden joining NATO could spark a military buildup there.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: With its vast frozen tundra and inhospitable environment, there's always been a certain mystique to the Arctic.

KLAUS DODDS: The Arctic is exceptional. The Arctic is special.

NORTHAM: Klaus Dodds specializes in Arctic and Antarctic geopolitics at Royal Holloway at the University of London.

DODDS: There was always this kind of reassurance that, whatever else happened in the rest of the world, the spillover wouldn't touch the Arctic. And I think what we've now got is a situation where, clearly, that no longer holds.

Video Title: "Arctic geopolitics" (LECTURE), with Prof. Klaus Dodds. Source: RHUL Geography. Date Published: June 25, 2021. Description:

"Arctic geopolitics: Great power competition and the contested governance of the High North". 

Join Professor Klaus Dodds for this final Royal Holloway Geography for Schools lecture of the 2010-21 academic year. Klaus is a renowned world expert in the governance of the polar regions, and in this lecture he will exploring how and why the Arctic in particular has become so central to the geopolitical ambitions of traditional and emerging powers.