The High North is an area of increasing international interest, especially due to the prospects of exploiting vast natural resources. Concurrently, the receding polar ice promises the option of year-round shipping routes, thus halving the distance for transits between Asia and Europe. Exploiting these anticipated prospects creates challenges with regard to maritime security. Moreover, besides economic ambitions and commercial interests in this remote region, technical progress must be factored in as well. Panel 1 provides hands-on views from an ecological and economic maritime security perspective on the Arctic.
After more than two decades of post-Cold War NATO transformation directed at other areas of interest around the globe, the High North is being rediscovered by strategic thinkers and planners alike. Besides neighbouring NATO countries, states such as Russia and China are also showing a growing interest and consequently an increasing presence at the Northern flank of the Alliance. Easier access to Arctic waters unveils new strategic opportunities and challenges alike. Consequently, all tools of national power might need to be calibrated accordingly. Panel 2 traces the contemporary nature of sea power in the Arctic.
The High North offers a unique chance to quell emerging inter-state conflicts through legal norms, political forums, diplomatic measures, and cooperative avenues. Therefore, this region could evolve into a role-model for other maritime regions and perhaps even as a blueprint for a cooperative global maritime governance. However, this assumes that the neighbouring states and other relevant players succeed in establishing a trustworthy maritime security regime and foster the rule of international law. Nonetheless, keen economic prospects in conjunction with unilateral political interests and military power might be a tempting vision to thwart a strictly consensual approach. Panel 3 investigates the sustainability of existing political and legal frameworks regarding the Arctic.