2013 Plenary 6: Arctic Encounters: Hot Commodities, Cold War

Panelists agreed that this session was particularly timely given the announcement by Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel’s regarding the first U.S. Defense strategy for the Arctic the previous day. In the context of climate change, melting ice and new-found access to resources, there was clear consensus among the panelists and participants that cooperation is required in managing activities in the Arctic related to search and rescue, the environment and the economy. It was noted that the first binding agreement by the Arctic Council was on search and rescue in the region.

Panelists pointed to the cooperation at the Arctic Council as a primary reason that the relationships amongst Arctic nations tend to be fairly peaceful. They also noted that the interest from non-Arctic states to be granted observer status on the Arctic Council is a demonstration of the importance the world is beginning to place on the region. The dominance of Russia’s assets in the Arctic, such as nuclear submarines, was raised and questions about the possibilities of a dissolution of peaceful and cooperative relationships remained largely unanswered.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and existing principles in maritime law were raised as crucial components to developing the Arctic. NATO’s role in providing situational awareness was discussed, but panelists did not feel that NATO would have a military role in the foreseeable future. Panelists also agreed that the people living in the Arctic including the Inuit must be brought to the table to provide their expertise on the region and its future.