The first preamble of Arctic Council Ministerial meetings’ declarations – “to maintain peace, stability and constructive cooperation in the Arctic” (Reykjavik Declaration 2021) - is been for years indicating the main aim of the eight Arctic states to keep low tension in high latitudes. The slogan manifests on the one hand, the shift from the military tension of the Cold War to political stability and cooperation of the Post-Cold War Arctic, and on the other hand, the political will of the Arctic states and Arctic Indigenous peoples to maintain the achieved state of international relations, which may not be exceptional but is rare.
For more than 30 years this state, based on common interests, has been mutually beneficial for the region’s peoples, local communities and states. Behind were first, a growing concern and the related pressure, raised by Indigenous and other local peoples, NGOs and researchers, on environmental degradation by long-range (air & water) pollution; and second, international cooperation on environmental protection, much according to the idea / principle of functional cooperation for confidence-building, bringing first time the eight Arctic states together to sign the AEPS in June 1991. Followed this practical procedure, the Arctic Council, with a selected agenda, was founded in September 1996 for policy-shaping between governments and Indigenous peoples’ organizations.
Now due to the Ukrainian crisis & Russia’s invasion of Ukraine international Arctic cooperation, as well as Arctic Council, is facing its biggest challenge and test, as seven Arctic states (excluded Russia) “are temporarily pausing participation in all meetings of the Council and its subsidiary bodies, pending consideration of the necessary modalities that can allow us to continue the Council’s important work”. The Russian Federation, which is the current chairman of the Council, regrets the decision, and the Council’s chair stresses that “this unique format should not be subject to the spill-over effect of any extraregional events”. It is, however, obvious that a damage has already happened, but more is at stake, and there is a lot to be loosed if the consortium of Arctic Eight + Indigenous Peoples will not be able to continue the work.
The Thematic Network on Geopolitics and Security, as the UArctic thematic network with much expertise on IR / Political sciences, Geopolitics, Security studies, Strategic studies, Political geography, Environmental politics, Human & Environmental security. Our 70 (and counting) members publish intensively in peer-reviewed journals and media, write & contribute policy-oriented reports, have presentations & other contributions in international conferences, seminars & workshops (e.g. Arcgfic Circle Assembly), as well as give interviews and are active in social media.
TN publishes Arctic Yearbook, which with almost 230 scholarly articles (within 10 volumes) is the leading international peer-reviewed journal on Arctic politics, and being with an open access has a broad audience of scholars & other experts, students, and policy-makers & planners. As you most probably know, the theme of the 2022 volume is “The Russian Arctic: Economics, Politics & Peoples” (decided in beginning of January 2022), which attracted almost 40 abstracts.
Three TN members (Heininen, Sergunin & Yarovoy) got a Valdai DC grant in 2013 and published next year the report “Russian Strategies in the Arctic: Avoiding a New Cold War.” (The Valdai Discussion Club, Grantees Report. Moscow, 2014 - available at www.valdaiclub.com). Interestingly, it was almost forgotten for a few years, till last autumn it is been again used & referred, most probably due to the increased military tension in Europe and great power rivalry between Russia and the USA.
TN is also been the main organizer of the annual travelling symposium, Calotte Academy a School of Arctic Dialogue. The theme of the 2022 Academy (10-18 June 2022 in the European Arctic) is “The global Arctic today: cooperation & power politics, fossil economy & climate catastrophe, science & Indigenous knowledge”. As well as, TN uses to organize a series of expert sessions on geopolitics, security and governance at Arctic Circle Assembly, also in the next event in 13-16 October.
All in all, we have an expertise, an international publication with open access, a platform for training of early-career scientists and that for open discussion between experts and bigger audience, as well as skills and readiness to act. Now my question is, would we like to use the expertise and the platforms, and for what, and whether this is the right moment to do so? Following from this, I suggest that we start a brainstorming on how to maintain peace & stability, and continue constructive cooperation across borders in the Arctic region.
This is an open call for a Brainstorming to TN members - all are invited to contribute!
The brainstorming aims to find answers and ideas & proposals for solutions to this challenging situation. Of particular interest are contributions on how to maintain the common interests of the Arctic states & Indigenous peoples, how to continue the existing functional multilateral cooperation, as well as how to proceed multidimensional cross-border cooperation by different stakeholders on all levels - from local to global: Finally, how to avoid a fragmentation / split of the Arctic Council, and restart it work after to crisis & war is over, and when the seven Arctic states are ready to come back onto the common table.
Contributions should be short (0.5-2 pages), and responses to this my message to all. They could be thoughts & comments based on theory / theories or practice / best practices & examples of existing cooperation, questions & critical assessments on current (international) Arctic cooperation and its structures & bodies, as well as those for the future. All by constructive way – neither pointing at, nor hate speech, please.
If this will be successful – as this is never done earlier in this context, we don’t know what will come out from this – the material will be used by constructive and respective ways. For example, to devote a session on this at Arctic Circle Assembly and Calotte Academy this year, to contribute the introduction and other contents of 2022 Arctic Yearbook, and possibly to publish a special report with recommendations for Arctic states & Indigenous peoples’ organizations (see, IIASA Analysis and Synthesis on Arctic Politics and Strategies, 2020).
Waiting for your contributions - please, the floor is yours!
Dr. Lassi Heininen
Professor (emeritus), University of Lapland, Finland
Editor of Arctic Yearbook
Leader of Thematic Network on Geopolitics and Security
Chair of the Arctic Circle Mission Council on the GlobalArctic