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Actors and patterns of cooperation and conflict
Russia, Norway and the High North - Past, Present, Future
The United States in the 21 Century Arctic
Defining an Interest: The European Union and the High North
The Power of Energy
Law of the Sea and Ocean Governance
Climate Change and Environmental Protection

Arctic strategy documents



Arctic Mountains 


Many arctic states and central actors have published Arctic strategy documents.  

We have collected the documents for you and added comments by GeoPolitics in the High North participants. Here you find the the Arctic strategies of

  • Russia
  • the US
  • Canada
  • Finland
  • the EU
  • Denmark 
  • Sweden
  • Norway

June 2010: Finland recently presented its first Arctic strategy

The strategy focuses on external relations and discusses issues relating to security, the environment, economy, infrastructure and the indigenous peoples in the Arctic, as well as international institutions and the Arctic policy of the EU. It defines Finland’s Arctic policy objectives and discusses ways of promoting them. Proposals for the development of the EU’s Arctic policy are also presented in the strategy. 

The strategy defines Finland’s Arctic policy objectives and discusses ways of promoting them. Proposals for the development of the EU’s Arctic policy are also presented in the strategy. 

Some useful links:






Russian national security strategy to 2020, by Katarzyna Zysk, senior fellow at the IFS (15 June 2009)

On 12 May 2009 President Medvedev approved the Russian national security strategy for the period until 2020. The document replaced the security concept from 1997 (modified in 2000), thus reflecting Russia’s evolved security environment. Contrary to what was widely expected, the new security concept has stronger conciliatory character.

The broad and detailed document depicts a complex and integrated picture of Russia’s security situation. It describes current world trends and defines Russia’s national interests and strategic priorities. Unlike the previous documents, it goes far beyond the classical definition of national security with a predominantly military approach. The new strategy identifies threats and challenges within a broadly defined concept of security under chapters defined as ‘National defence’, ‘State security and civil protection’, ‘Improvement of living standards’, ‘Economic growth’, ‘Research, technologies and education’, ‘Healthcare’, ‘Culture’, ‘Ecology’, and ‘Strategic stability and partnership on equal terms’. Much less attention is devoted to hard security threats. National defence tasks are described relatively vaguely. The document avoids as well any broader discussion of Russia’s nuclear policy, confirming only its further reliance on nuclear deterrence and nuclear parity with the United States.

The new strategy points at failure of the current global and regional security architecture, as it is disproportionately weighted in favour of NATO. It voices Russia’s long-standing opposition to any future eastward enlargement of the Alliance and plans to move its military infrastructure to Russian borders, as well as attempts to give the organisation global functions. At the same time, it expresses Russia’s readiness to negotiate and develop relations with NATO on the condition of equality and respect for Russia’s interests. Contrary to expectations based on the anti-Western rhetoric frequently used by the Russian leadership in recent years, the United States is not mentioned in the document as a security concern. It refers though to attempts of a range of leading states to achieve military supremacy as a threat to state’s security.

The economy has a prominent place in the document as a major security factor. The dependence of the Russian economy on export of raw materials has been recognized as a threat, together with foreign involvement in the national economy. The global economic downturn has left a footprint in the document, which states that consequences of such crisis may be comparable with the devastation left by large-scale use of military force. One of Russia’s objectives is to become one of the five biggest economies in the world in terms of GDP. Similarly to other newly updated documents, such as the new Arctic strategy to 2020, particular attention is devoted to infrastructure development aimed at reducing economic differences among Russian regions, in particular in the Arctic and Far East.

The document highlights the role of energy security. It associates Russia’s international position and strength with its energy reserves, and states that a pragmatic policy and political use of its natural resources has strengthened Russia’s influence on the international stage. The strategy asserts that in a long term perspective the attention of international policy will be focused on access to energy reserves, including on the continental shelf in the Barents Sea and other parts of the Arctic, in addition to the Middle East, the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. In the next article the document points that the critical state of physical safety of dangerous materials, in particular in states with unstable domestic political situation, as well as proliferation of conventional weapons, can lead to exacerbation of existing and provoking new regional and international conflicts. The strategy maintains that it cannot be excluded that problems resulting from the competitive struggle for dwindling resources worldwide may be solved with use of military force.

As many other Russian documents and official statements, the new security strategy does not omit to clearly emphasise the country’s commitment to international law in pursuing its foreign policy objectives and protecting national security interests.  

To se the official document (in Russian), please click here: Strategia natsionalnoi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii do 2020 goda


Russia's Arctic strategy: ambitions and constraints,
by Katarzyna Zysk senior fellow at the IFS.

The Russian government adopted a new Arctic strategy in September 2008. The document, entitled “The fundamentals of state policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic in the period up to 2020 and beyond” (Osnovy gosudarstvennoi politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii v Arktike na period do 2020 goda i dalneishuiu perspektivu, was published on the Russian Security Council’ website in the end of March 2009. 

The strategy clearly emphasizes the region’s importance to Russia’s economy as a major source of revenue, mainly from energy production and profitable maritime transport.
A main goal is to transform the Arctic into Russia’s top strategic base for natural resources by 2020, and preserve the country’s role as a leading Arctic power.

The Russian authorities consider the region as crucially important for Russia’s further wealth, social and economic development and competitiveness on global markets. Defining the limits of the country’s continental shelf by 2015 is listed as a top priority. Among other strategic goals the document points at developing the transport and communication infrastructure in the region, particularly connected to the Northern Sea Route as a national, wholly integrated transportation route and a central element in maritime connections between Europe and Asia. The strategy reveals that one of Russia major goal is to establish special Arctic military formations in order to protect the county’s national interests in various military and political situations.

The Russian authorities underscore, however, that the main purpose of such military preparations is to combat terrorism at sea, smuggling and illegal migration, and protect aquatic biological resources. Hence, the FSB (Federal Security Service) will get a central role in protecting national interests in the region. The Russian authorities clearly underscored the document’s cooperative character by emphasizing the need to preserve the Arctic as a zone of peace and cooperation, and underlining the role of regional bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Link to Russian Arctic strategy document of September 2008 (in Russian)





Comment on the US Arctic region policy document 

By Ingrid Lundestad, research fellow at the IFS


The United States announced its Arctic Region Policy on January 9, 2009. The directive supersedes a similar US document from 1994. Although signed by the outgoing Bush administration, the policy is considered to be largely bipartisan.

Compared with the 1990s, the document reflects an increased US interest in the Arctic region. US interests, as identified in the directive, are seen in light of recent developments, including: altered national policies on homeland security and defense; the effects of climate change and increased human activity in the region; the establishment and ongoing work of the Arctic Council; as well as an awareness of the region’s resources.


It is pointed out that the United States has "broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region." Other issues than those directly pertaining to national and homeland security are also covered. These include boundary issues, scientific research, transportation, energy and environmental protection.


The directive states that the US is willing to operate independently in the Arctic, while at the same time underlining the need for international cooperation in the region. The work within the Arctic Council is seen as positive, though it is argued that the Council should sustain its current and limited mandate. The document states that the Senate should accede to the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, "to protect and advance U.S. interests, including with respect to the Arctic." The new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also supports ratification. She has confirmed that the Arctic is one area in which the Obama administration will highlight international cooperation in the implementation of US foreign policy.

Link to the US Arctic region policy document of January 2009




Canada's Northern Strategy, March 2009

Statement on Canada's Arctic foreign policy, Minister Cannon, August 2010

Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy Pamphlet, August 2010

A short account of Canadian Arctic policies
The Canadian House of Commons passed in 2009 a bid to rename the North West Passage the Canadian North West Passage. The renaming of the passage can be attributed to the ongoing conflict between Canada and other countries, most notably the US, over the status of the passage. Canada considers it "internal waters", whereas the US and others consider it as an "international strait". The renaming can also be attributed to increased Canadian and international focus on the Arctic.


Two Canadian participants in the Geopolitics in the High North programme have presented somewhat different recommendations on how Canada should adapt to the potential of increase activity in the Arctic. 


Dr Rob Huebert argues in "Canadian Arctic Sovereignty and Security in a Transforming Circumpolar World" that Canada needs to adapt to a changing Arctic by increasing surveillance and enforcement capabilities. Furthermore, he proposes and develop an Arctic framework with especially the US and Russia to establish "rules of engagement" in the Arctic.


Prof. Franklyn Griffiths takes a more inclusive approach in his paper "Towards a Canadian Arctic Strategy" as he argues that cooperative stewardship is the key to securing Canadian Arctic interests. This can be achieved by strengthening the Arctic Council and including non members as consultative partners in the decision making process of the Council.


The Canadian government is in the process of developing an International Dimension of Canada's Northern Strategy. The main objective is to affirm by domestic action international recognition of the country's presence and positions in the Canadian Arctic. Key elements are:

  • Protection of Canada's environmental heritage
  • Promotion of economic and social development
  • Exercise of national sovereignty
  • Improvement and devolvement of governance to the Canadian Arctic

Canada is maintaining its military presence by holding military exercises in its Arctic territories, most notably the Operation Nanook held in August 2009. The exercise was regarded as a display of national sovereignty. Canada is engaged in managed disputes or disagreements with Denmark and the US. Furthermore, a disagreement with Russia could arise in the future over the underwater Lomonosov Ridge crossing the North Pole.


It is, however, unlikely that any of these will escalate into conflicts. In the Ilulissat Declaration the Arctic littoral states, including Canada, USA and Russia, declared that disputes is to be resolved peacefully through international bodies such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Canada, among other littoral states, is in the process of extending its continental shelf through the UNCLOS' regime.







An EU Arctic Policy?  
An account of the EU’s Arctic policy in recent years by Professor Clive Archer.

The European Union’s involvement in the Arctic  


The European Parliament’s involvement  

  • European Commission's October 2007 Communication on Integrated Maritime Policy - will deal with Arctic by the end of 2008
  • European Parliament October 2008: Questions and debate led by Diana Wallis (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, ALDE)
  • Resolution on Arctic governance adopted 9 October 2008:
    • Referred to Russian flag incident (Aug 2007); UNCLOS; oil & gas; global warming
    • Effect on Inuit & wild-life of warming
    • 3 EU member states (Denmark, Finland & Sweden) and 2 European Economic Area states (Iceland & Norway) in Arctic Council
    • Arctic not governed by specific norms and regulations, never expected to be navigable or for commercial exploitation
    • Concern about environment, traffic; energy & security policy in Arctic
    • Wants special mention of Arctic at Copenhagen 2009 Climate Change conference
    • Suggests observer status for European Commission in AC;
    • Outlines basis for European Commission Communication on the Arctic
    • Suggests international treaty for protection of Arctic based on Antarctic Treaty 


The European Commission’s Arctic Paper 2008  

  • Objectives:
    • Implement existing obligations rather than new instruments (answer to EP)
    • But develop some frameworks and adapt to Arctic conditions
    • Arctic EU members should not be excluded from any discussions (Ilulissat Declaration)
    • Arctic to be integrated into EU policies & negotiations. 
  • Proposals:
    • Closely follow negotiations (especially UNCLOS)
    • EU should have permanent observer status of AC
    • Further Northern Dimension projects especially on environment & energy should be encouraged
    • New framework for ecosystem management possible?Cross-border cooperation & programmes
    • Integrate Maritime Strategy Framework directive into EEA
    • Explore idea of European Arctic Information centre
    • i.e. many small steps 

Why an EU policy?  

  • External reasons:
    • Growing economic importance of Arctic
    • Increased environmental importance
    • Russia’s activism in region
    • US, Norway & Canada developing Arctic policies, later Russia
    • Greenland moving to independence 
  • Internal reasons
    • Need for EU presence in all parts of world
    • Inter-agency rivalry: EP, Commission, High Representative
    • What to do after last enlargement?
    • Geographic balance within EU
    • Failure of ND’s Arctic window Where to next?
    • Institutional battles over Arctic: EU, AC, BEAC, NATO, UN
    • The Russian question: what does Russia want in the region?
    • The Greenland question: what can Greenland manage?
    • Norway in between: EEA, Svalbard, Barents. Has the “High North” succeeded as a policy?
    • The next European Commission: who gets what? 


See also the web site of the EU on the Arctic region

by Clive Archer, emeritus professor, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK and associated individual researcher of the Geopolitics in the High North programme. Outline of a talk given at The Norwegian Atlantic Committee, September 2009



Council conclusions on Arctic issues
Introduction by Ida Holdhus, Master Research Fellow, Norwegian Instiute for Defence Studies, 3 February 2010

Council conclusions on Arctic issues  

  • Adopted at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting 8 December 2009.
  • Builds on the 2008 Commission’s Communication on the European Union and the Arctic 
  • Is meant to constitute a next step towards what the Council considers “the gradual formulation of a policy on Arctic issues to address EU interests and responsibilities, while recognising Member States’ legitimate interests and rights in the Arctic” (emphasis added).
  • Supports three main policy objectives proposed by the Commission:
    • Protecting and preserving the Arctic
    • Promoting sustainable use of natural resources
    • Contributing to enhanced governance
  • 23 points are presented - some of a general nature, others reiterate earlier positions but the document also includes specific proposals for action.
  • Provides the Commission with guidelines as to the formulation of an Arctic policy.
  • The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1st December 2009 gives increased legislative powers to the Parliament, but it is too early to draw conclusions as to the relative influence of the EU institutions in the formulation of an EU Arctic policy. 
  • The Council requests the Commission to present a report on progress made in these areas by the end of June 2011.


Some substantial points include:

Protecting and preserving the Arctic

  • The Council invites Member States and the Commission to support efforts to protect Arctic ecosystems, encouraging Arctic states to develop marine protected areas (Point 5).
  • The Commission is invited to present a work plan for monitoring, research, restriction of use and destruction of hazardous chemicals released into and inside the Arctic (Point 9).
  • The Council underlines the importance of supporting sustainable development for indigenous peoples, including on the basis of their traditional means of livelihood (point 3)


Sustainable use of resources

  • The Council underlines that in the implementation of the Integrated Maritime Policy harvesting of Arctic marine living resources should be managed on the basis of scientific advice as part of an ecosystem perspective (point 10).
  • The Council favours a temporary ban on new fisheries in those Arctic waters not yet covered by an international conservation system (point 10).
  • The Commission and Member States are invited to examine the possibilities to endorse the revised Arctic Council Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines of 2009 (point 4)



  • The Council supports the applications by Italy and the Commission to become permanent observers in the Arctic Council (point 17). 
  • The Council welcomes the IMO’s amendment of the existing guidelines for ships operating in polar waters and the agreement to develop a new mandatory instrument for ships operating in polar waters (point 12).
  • It reiterates the rights and obligations for flag, port and coastal states provided for in international law in relation to freedom of navigation, the right of innocent passage and transit passage, and will monitor their observance (point 16).





Norwegian High North strategy
Comment by Kristine Offerdal, research fellow at the IFS:
In December 2006 The Norwegian Government's High North Strategy was released. The overall goal is to create sustainable growth and development in the High North according to three overarching principles: presence, activity and knowledge. Seven main policy priorities are set out:

  • exercise authority in the High North in a credible, consistent and predictable way
  • be at the forefront of international efforts to develop knowledge in and about the region
  • be the best steward of the environment and natural resources in the High North
  • provide a suitable framework for further development of petroleum activities
  • safeguard the livelihoods, traditions and cultures of indigenous peoplesdevelop people-to-people cooperation
  • strengthen cooperation with Russia


The strategy aims at reaching these goals through increased international collaboration on resource exploitation, environmental management and research. An active dialogue with neighbours, partners and allies, and particularly with Russia is the main method.


In its follow-up of the High North Strategy in March 2009, Nye byggesteiner i nord (New building blocks in the North), the main policy goals and methods are the same. The Government then takes the old strategy a step further by providing a broad range of concrete suggestions of measures to be taken within the following priority areas:


  • development of knowledge about climate change and environment
  • strengthening of maritime surveillance, emergency preparedness and security
  • encourage sustainable development of petroleum and renewable resources
  • contribute to land-based economic development
  • infrastructure development
  • continue a firm assertion of sovereignty and strengthen cross-border cooperation
  • secure the culture and livelihood of indigenous peoples

The new document provides a more dynamic definition of the High North concept than the strategy of 2006, which geographically, mainly included the Barents Sea area. The new document emphasizes that with more international collaboration in the region, "the High North" will become synonymous with "the circumpolar Arctic".


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