How do some of the world’s biggest geopolitical actors construct the Arctic in relation to each other?

The deterioration of Arctic ice due to climate change creates new space that potentially changes the availability of natural resources and redefines global connectivity between Asia, Europe, and North America. Interest in the Arctic is mainly from the 8 members of the Arctic council: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and the US, but also from non-Arctic based countries, namely China (Huang, Lasserre and Alexeeva 2015) and the EU (Wegge, 2012). Given that the Arctic is a space of interest to the world’s most powerful states, how they interact in the region will likely shape the rules of global politics, the global economy and international law for the coming decades.

Given that how countries act towards the region is based on how they make sense of it, this project asks the research question: "How do countries interested in the Arctic make sense of the region?". The construction of space takes place at different levels of society and in different sites. Important pieces of evidence can be found in national policies (Wegge 2012, 2014, Charron et al 2012, Altunkaya 2019), but official communications and strategies seldomly portray the whole picture. This project will find and dissect the vantage points from an ideational standpoint, at a time where the major geopolitical actors are discovering the region’s significance and are attempting to shape rules and governance structures in accordance with their own view. This is a timely project, not least against the background of a potential military confrontation between Russia and Western states over the Ukraine-crisis. This project will provide a deeper understanding of how the various countries interested in the Arctic construct a real and changing geographic space in relation to their own norms and ambitions. To academic literature, this research can provide solid progression toward better understanding of Arctic geopolitics, particularly on the case of the ocean and how this is significant to IR. Due to IR primarily being land based, this project could extend the scope of IR to be consider the physical dimensions of our world, a notable limit to IR (Pereira 2017).

Grant reference
Economic and Social Research Council
Total awarded
£0 GBP
Start date
25 Sep 2022
4 years 4 days
End date
29 Sep 2026