The volume explores a question that sheds light on the contested, but largely cooperative, nature of Arctic governance in the post-Cold War period: How do power relations matter – and how have they mattered – in shaping cross-border cooperation and diplomacy in the Arctic? Through carefully selected case studies – from Russia’s role in the Arctic Council to the diplomacy of indigenous peoples’ organisations – this book seeks to shed light on how power performances are enacted constantly to shore up Arctic cooperation in key ways. The conceptually driven nature of the enquiry makes the book appropriate reading for courses in international relations and political geography, while the carefully selected case studies lend themselves to courses on Arctic politics.
This chapter introduces the conceptual approach of the book. The chapter argues that by examining relations of deference, plumbing episodes of controversy, and highlighting the quiet ‘work’ of various kinds involved in sustaining and expanding cooperation in the Arctic, one can appreciate how cooperation is a dynamic state of affairs in the Arctic and undergirded by power relations. Acknowledging the exercise of power without positing the existence of open conflict allows us to consider how Arctic cooperation is constantly shored up through various kinds of context-specific performances, and through broached and resolved contestations, rather than a static output of stale agreement. The chapter also introduces the conceptualisation of the Arctic utilised in the book – that of an interlinked ecosystem of policy fields that differ in their reach and focus. Subsequent chapters and the specific propositions about power relations that they explore – namely representation, hierarchy, norms and authority – are also introduced.
This book is designed to give us insight into how power relations have been important to structuring and sustaining cross-border Arctic cooperation and cooperative governance of the region. Taking a close look at power relations necessitates jostling and unpacking established narratives about regional history and key actors. Chapter 1, however, aims to provide readers less familiar with Arctic settings with important background and, therefore, draws upon established narratives and classifications that later chapters may re-examine. We begin with an introduction to various Arctic actor groups in a brief historical context. The difficulty of keeping these actor groups separate from one another underlines the complexity and interconnectedness of Arctic governance today, and it is on this topic of Arctic multilateralism and cross-border innovation that the chapter concludes.
Maps, films, poetry and policy documents can all tell a story about the region. This chapter seeks to highlight how these representations of the region – or the way in which particular circumpolar policy issues are framed by narrative and images – are a manifestation of and serve to shape power relations in the region. The chapter illustrates how active deployment of particular framings in Arctic diplomacy is an important part of laying the groundwork for certain policy actions. The first case examines how key political actors worked to sustain a representation of the region as cooperative, despite the post-2014 tensions between Russia and NATO countries. The two remaining examples look at framings relevant for clarifying more specific policy debates around what kind of actors belong in Arctic politics: namely the participation of non-Arctic states and business representatives in Arctic governance.
Chapter 3 suggests hierarchy as a useful analytic for understanding Arctic governance, as it acknowledges the presence of leading actors, while explicitly directing attention to many other important, flexible and dynamic roles within a policy field. After reviewing and taking cues from the literature on hierarchies in international-relations scholarship, ‘circumpolar-wide’ expressions of hierarchy are analysed, including the leading ‘club status’ of Arctic Council member states vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Chapter 3 argues that Russia and the USA can be best understood as ‘resting great powers’ in cooperative Arctic governance. They structure only in broad strokes the room for manoeuvre in the region at key junctures, but their preferences (articulated or guessed at) are difficult to ignore because of their regional and global prominence. Secondly, the chapter examines more transactional approaches to hierarchy: how certain positions may provide certain privileges (and responsibilities), using Norway’s Arctic leadership efforts as an example. Finally, turning away from states and towards people-to-people relations, we examine two projects concerning transition and change in the Russian Arctic undertakein during the 1990s and early 2000s, arguing hierarchical assumptions about students and teachers were intrinsic to these projects – and protested by the target audiences in northern Russia.
This chapter examines Russia’s engagement in the Arctic Council over time to see how Russia’s preferences are met (or not), and discusses what this can tell us about the rules of the road in cross-border Arctic diplomacy. In the first section, the notion of policy fields is revisited to conceptualise how the sporadic meeting places of global governance can indeed become imbued with a site-specific social thickness that matters for shaping behaviour. The long lines of Russia’s approach to the Arctic, as context for the interventions of Russia’s policymakers and diplomatic representatives in Arctic cross-border relations, are then examined. Subsequently, some of Russia’s key interventions in the politics of the Arctic Council in two separate periods, 1997–2007 and 2007/8–2017, are analysed, based on interviews and Arctic Council archives. The chapter concludes with a discussion of what Russia’s successful and failed interventions tell us about the evolving norms of Arctic cross-border governance, including an increasing trend towards concluding formal agreements, and how Russia has played a role in developing them.
The chapter brings contestation over authority into focus by examining how two non-state actors – scientific actors and representatives of indigenous polities – ‘meet the State’ at the political level within the Arctic Council. We explore how a concept borrowed from science and technology studies – civic epistemology – is one framework that can be applied to capture the ongoing dynamics around authority in a cross-cutting, regionally based ‘umbrella’ policy field such as the Arctic. We find Arctic Council progress highly reliant on the agenda-setting and evidence-gathering of science actors, and that the contributions of working groups, among others, are trusted by other policy field participants. However, the political level and Permanent Participants actively strive to secure their own authoritative positions, particularly vis-à-vis semi-independent working groups with longstanding secretariats and staff. This is manifested in who speaks on behalf of the Arctic Council, and is evident especially in contestation over who addresses non-Arctic settings and can draw and disseminate to a global audience evidence-based policy conclusions. Both states and Permanent Participants claim a more exclusive right to speak for the Arctic and its peoples, even if well informed by, appreciative of and utilising the science brought to the science–policy interface by expert actors.
This concluding chapter revisits the main findings of previous chapters and brings them into conversation. In particular, the conclusion discusses how dedicated day-to-day diplomacy and many forms of leadership and ‘quiet’ policy work are needed in meeting the challenges and opportunities faced in the Arctic, but argues that the continued constructive engagement of Russia and the United States remains of vital importance. The chapter also discusses avenues for further research on the concepts of findings of previous chapters.