chapter  9
18 Pages

New political community and governance at the top of the world: spatiality, affinity and security in the Arctic

Introduction The Arctic region, the area of the Earth’s surface lying north of the Arctic Circle ODWLWXGH ƒ ƍ1 FRYHUV D UHJLRQ RI VRPH PLOOLRQ NP2, much of which remains uninhabitable. The territorial claims of the six Arctic coastal states (Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United States) formally extend only to zones of 200 nautical miles beyond their coasts.1 Much of the space of the Arctic is thus beyond the formal jurisdiction of nation states. Part of the Arctic is borderless because ‘no country or group of countries have sovereignty over the North Pole or the Arctic Ocean around it’ (European Commission 2008: 1). However, the so-called ‘High North’ is also embedded within orthodox bordering processes in which the Arctic coastal states have sought to demarcate and expand upon their most northern frontiers. The geopolitics of the Arctic is, on the face of it, classically Westphalian – what Strandsbjerg (2012) calls the ‘politics of sovereign control’. As such, it reproduces certain historical and communitarian bordering practices and narratives that sit within a conventionally realist conception of geopolitical rivalry. Indeed the idea that the Arctic region is embroiled in a struggle among a group of states seeking to secure territorial claims has been the subject of much attention from both academia and the media. This ‘scramble for the Arctic’ (Sale and Potapov 2009) – a phrase that deliberately and vividly evokes the ‘scramble for Africa’ among European colonial powers between 1880 and the outbreak of the First World War – is usually presented as a classic case of inter-state competition over untapped natural resource endowments and navigation rights that have become accessible following the melting of sea ice in the context of climate change. Moreover, the Arctic is manifestly the site of state practices that have come to be understood in terms of ‘securitisation’ (Buzan et al. 1998).