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The Arctic – Between Conflict and Cooperation

Temperatures in the Arctic are rising fast, which has moved the prospect of an ice-free North Pole from the realm of fantasy to the realm of possibility. This has far-reaching implications for the entire region, which has now become part of the debate on security policy as a potential source of conflict. It is therefore worth taking a closer look at the facts and causal connections and at the interests of the stakeholders involved.

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The Arctic – Between Conflict and Cooperation

  • Editorial

    German cartographer August Petermann was one of the greats of his field in the 19th century; his distinctions included receiving the highest award of the Royal Geographical Society in London. It was his firm belief that, thanks to the Gulf Stream, there was ice-free access to the North Pole. Indeed, the theme of the first ever German Cartographers’ Day in 1865, initiated by Petermann, was the organisation of a German expedition to the North. It was not until several failed expeditions and dozens of deaths later that Petermann’s theory was finally abandoned.

    by Gerhard Wahlers

  • From Zone of Peace ­to Hotbed of Conflict?

    The Geopolitical Importance of the Arctic

    The Arctic is increasingly becoming the focus of geopolitical interests. When Mikhail Gorbachev declared the Arctic a “zone of peace” in Murmansk in 1987, it was a sign of hope for constructive cooperation between the Arctic states, but today – especially after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in violation of international law – a grim picture is emerging of power struggles, mistrust and militarisation.

    by Michael Däumer

  • Arctic Minerals and Sea Routes

    An Overview of Resources, Access and Politics

    Abundant Arctic mineral resources – hydrocarbons and hard minerals – are attracting attention. But what are the drivers and brakes of industrial development? Are the jurisdictional aspects clear, or is control of the resources subject to dispute? Likewise, Arctic sea lanes are opening up. Could access to them become a source of conflict?

    by Arild Moe

  • Threats of Irreversible Losses

    Climate Change in the Arctic and the Consequences of Russia’s War in Ukraine for International Research Cooperation

    Professor Boetius is a marine researcher and Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, the leading German institution in the field of polar and marine research. In an interview with International Reports, she explains why climate change threatens to cause irreversible losses in the Arctic, why the Russian attack on Ukraine has also severely impacted research in the polar region, and what she is still keen to find out about the Arctic.

    by Sören Soika, Fabian Wagener

  • New Perspectives on the Far North

    Risks and Options for Germany’s Arctic Policy

    Germany’s Arctic policy to date has largely consisted of declarations of intent concerning environmental protection and multilateralism. This has to change: after all, Russia is taking an increasingly confrontational stance in the Arctic too, where it is pursuing a military build-up. At the same time, China is likewise adopting a more ambitious approach in the region. For this reason, security must play a greater role in Germany’s deliberations on the Far North in future.

    by Knut Abraham

  • The Melting Shield

    The Russian Arctic as a Geopolitical Hotspot

    The High North has traditionally been of great importance to Russia – not only as a storehouse of raw materials but also in terms of security policy. While the melting of the ice is opening up new economic opportunities for Moscow, it is also depriving the country of natural protection against military attacks. As a result, the remilitarisation of the Russian Arctic is in full swing.

    by Thomas Kunze, Leonardo Salvador

  • The Self-Proclaimed Near-Arctic State

    China’s Policy in the Northern Polar Region

    Some 13 degrees of latitude separate the northernmost point of China from the Arctic Circle. Yet for years now, the People’s Republic has been pushing to expand its influence in the Arctic. This is firstly due to the fact that as a rising economic power, it is hungry for raw materials. Secondly, the leadership in Beijing has identified the region as an important zone in a potential future superpower conflict.

    by David Merkle

  • What the Various States (Officially) Want in the Arctic

    An Overview of Arctic Strategies of Selected Countries

    The United States and Russia have one, and so do Norway and Finland: an official Arctic strategy. The Arctic states are not the only ones to have set down their goals and priorities with regard to the northern polar region, however. Other countries at varying distances from the Arctic Circle have likewise adopted strategy papers of this kind, including China and India as well as Germany.

    by Sören Soika, Fabian Wagener

  • Maritime Zones under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

    Areas of Influence of the Coastal States

    What belongs to whom in the Arctic? In the absence of an “Arctic Treaty”, it is the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which defines rules on the status of different maritime zones – not only, but also in the Arctic.

  • The North American View of the Arctic

    How Canada and the United States Are Responding to Changes in the Far North

    When the legendary American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan set out the founding doctrine of the US Navy at the end of the 19th century with its central principle of maritime dominance, there was no mention of the Arctic. Yet with the rebuilding of Russian maritime capabilities after the Cold War and the simultaneous heightening of Chinese ambitions to challenge American hegemony at every opportunity, there has been a significant shift in the importance of the Arctic for both the United States and Canada. This poses considerable challenges for both of these Arctic littoral states in terms of their security policy.

    by Norbert Eschborn

  • The Arctic Policy of the Nordic Countries

    Between Climate Change, Economic Use and Security

    Vast expanses of snow and ice populated only by polar bears: this is an image of the Arctic that only partly reflects reality. Even though protecting the climate and the natural Arctic landscape is of central concern to the Nordic ­countries, economic activity is also a feature of the regions north of the Arctic Circle. Moreover, the issue of security is now high on the list of priorities again – particularly since Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

    by Gabriele Baumann, Julian Tucker

  • From No Man’s Land to the Continent of the 21st Century?

    On the Future of the Antarctic

    Remote and almost uninhabited, yet increasingly significant in international politics: the Antarctic is a crucial factor in the fight against climate change. And given the raw material deposits that are thought to be located there, what was once a no man’s land has the potential to develop into a geopolitical arena in the medium and long term. Germany and Europe should do more to promote stability and sustainability in the region.

    by Inga von der Stein

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About this series

International Reports (IR) is the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung's periodical on international politics. It offers political analyses by our experts in Berlin and from more than 100 offices across all regions of the world. Contributions by named authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial team.

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Dr. Gerhard Wahlers



Benjamin Gaul

Benjamin Gaul

Head of the Department International Reports and Communication +49 30 26996 3584

Dr. Sören Soika


Editor-in-Chief International Reports (Ai) +49 30 26996 3388

Kim Karcher

Portrait von Kim Karcher

Referentin Kommunikation und Vermarktung +49 30 / 2 69 96 - 2387