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Military Security Cooperation in the Arctic: A Path of Peace or a Spiral of Insecurity Open Access

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As human, economic and military activity is increasing in the Arctic, new security challenges are arising in the region. On the one hand, the opening of the Arctic as well as climate change impacts, have lead Arctic nations to take steps to increase border protection, search and rescue capabilities and military presence in the region. On the other hand, the Arctic serves as an area for global strategic deterrence, and has therefore witnessed increased military activity not directly related to climate change or human activity. At the same time, geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West are high after the Ukraine crisis in 2014. Despite a high level of cooperation on other areas in the Arctic, there is no institution, forum or framework where Arctic nations can discuss or share information on military security matters. This thesis examines the need for including military security in the current Arctic regime in order to continue peaceful relations in the region, as well as the prospects for such cooperation. I have conducted a case study of Russia, Norway and the United States’ stakes, preferences, interests and power in the Arctic in order to both understand the exclusion of military security and to assess the need and prospects for such cooperation. These factors have been analyzed in the light of Steven Krasner’s modified structural regime theory, which lays out the conditions under which a regime develops. This thesis finds that the theory does not give a clear answer or prediction to the research question. However, However, the thesis shows that Russia, Norway and the US share important military security interests in the region. At the same time, the thesis find that there is lack of information when it comes to military activities in the region, which has lead to concerns among some Arctic leaders. The concerns mainly come from Norway, which expresses uncertainty over Russia’s intentions in the region. The concerns have grown after Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which generally has caused more insecurity between Russia and the West – in the Arctic as well as elsewhere. Including a form of military security dialogue in the Arctic regime can improve communication between the Arctic states on military matters, and prevent potential misunderstanding. Information sharing and confidence building measures have become even more needed after the Ukraine crisis. However, my analysis finds that creating such a forum is not a priority or focus area for Russia, Norway or the US, and is left out of the Arctic discourse in general. Before the Ukraine crisis, Arctic states were moving towards institutionalizing a military security dialogue in the Arctic including both Russia and NATO members, but this work was suspended in 2014. I conclude that Arctic NATO members, here represented by Norway and the US, should consider reopening some forums for military-to-military cooperation with Russia in the Arctic in order to prevent misunderstandings and maintain peaceful relations in the region.

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