Competition and conflict in the arctic?


Ownership of the arctic has always been controversial among the countries with borders at the top of our planet. Recently, with the steady increase in temperatures due to global warming, the arctic has opened up. This allows trading vessels easier passage as well as access to the previously hidden mineral resources of the arctic.

Russia has already staked a claim, more symbolic than anything, by place a metal Russian flag 2 miles under the ice of the arctic. This is similar to how America planted a flag on the moon; just because its there doesn’t mean it belongs to us. As it stands right now, no one truly owns the arctic. It is governed by the United Nations Convention on Law of The Seas, or UNCLOS. This set of international law laid out in 1982 controls who can do what in the arctic. It established that it is indeed a free travel zone not controlled by any one government. The other major part of UNCLOS is that each nation that has a border with the arctic (US, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Finland) as 200 miles of exclusive economic zone. Meaning they control that portion of ocean and everything under it. With the ice melting many of these nations want to further expand this area of economic exclusivity.

Because the ice made travel by ship difficult not many vessels traveled the Northern Sea Route or NSR. Now that ice is shifting and not blocking the route, many more cargo vessels are taking the NSR (blue) instead of the Suez canal route (red)


While I doubt this conflict has any chance of escalating past a verbal and diplomatic one, the chance is still there. With resources like oil and natural gas running low and becoming ever more expensive, the treasure trove that is the arctic is desired by many nations who have a chance at attaining the riches it presents. This growing conflict needs to be monitored carefully to ensure that no physical actions are taken that could result in war.


5 thoughts on “Competition and conflict in the arctic?

  1. This is a very interesting topic, and in my opinion control over the arctic territory will be a major international issue in the future. It makes me question what it is that makes a government feel entitled to claim new land in the first place, especially in a time of such extensive media coverage where this claim would be seen and more than likely disputed by much of the world. I remember watching a documentary, I think it was Vice, and it showed the Norwegian military engaging in Arctic military drills, to simulate the possibility of going to war against Russia. This is a very real issue that seems to be unfolding at this very moment.


  2. With the arctic being the last “great frontier” in this world aside from the depths of the ocean this problem seems to be very real, albeit very childish, but we will no doubt hear about this in the future. Imagine if it became a collective locale for study and preservation such as the International Space Station or some sort of trans-national park. Each country could have to exert some sort of effort to assist in reducing pollutants and start actively attempting to fix the planet. Putting the climate change crusade aside this could be an extreme issue involving trade/prices and the lives of our and other’s sea traders/transport, as well as the lives of our U.S. Navy/Coast Guard/Marine Corps members who might have to engage in some sort of maritime police/peace action due to this upcoming crisis.


  3. I feel that eventually there will be a fight for control of the arctic because of what it has to offer, and what it could possibly offer that is still unknown. Countries are also going to want that territory because they are going to feel as if they have more power if they are in control. Though I feel no one country should be in complete control of that area who knows if that would be possible because that would require bargaining and negotiations from multiple powerful countries and they will all do what they can to be more in control. Hopefully these countries will be able to bargain and negotiate to avoid and even bigger conflict like war though.


  4. War may be more unlikely than it would seem. While not too long in the past this scenario would certainly have lead to war the case is not the same this time around. Each side has to think about reaction from the international community, whats the point of having access to the oil if no other country wants to do any business with you. It would be a trade that isn’t worth it, sacrificing your economy for raw materials.


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