Sustainable Security for the Arctic

Appropriate military assets should be considered for sustainable security in the Artic, says latest RUSI Whitehall Paper

Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean: Promoting Co-operation and Preventing Conflict, by Professor Paul Berkman, calls for heads of state to co-operate more closely to make sure sustainable development can succeed.


The paper contends that peace in the Arctic is in the common interest of all states, particularly the five who border the region. Although international problems concerning the Arctic have been handled amicably in the past, specific mention of peace in the area has been systematically neglected.


The author points out that this does not mean that the Arctic should be demilitarised, indeed, the report argues that a military presence is required to stabilise the region.


It says: 'As more commercial entities, eco-tourists and others operate or travel through the Arctic Ocean, the likelihood of mishaps, hazards to navigation, or encroachment on sovereignty may require a military response.'


The paper calls for 'global statesmanship to establish a lasting legacy of peace, stability and security in the Arctic' and that states must take responsibility for this peace or sustainable economic and political prosperity cannot succeed there.


The transformation of the Arctic Ocean from a permanent sea-ice cap to a seasonally ice-free sea in the future will fundamentally change the geo-political landscape of the region. It will create new trade routes, new opportunities for resource exploitation, and new issues for security forces in the Arctic Circle.


The paper seeks to establish a shared dialogue between nations in order to promote environmental security, co-operation and to prevent conflict in the Arctic Ocean and believes that the adoption of its theory of environmental security will be the best route towards this.


The report author, Professor Berkman, defines environmental security as an all-encompassing framework to address every destabilising security risk, be they political, economic or cultural, emerging because of the Arctic Ocean's transformation. By creating an over-arching framework in environmental security, it is hoped that over-arching solutions are found to the issues that arise.


The objective of this is to make sure that there is a 'whole society' response, involving public and private enterprises in a balanced civil-military relationship, to resolve troublesome issues, such as territorial disputes and trade agreements. The paper believes that this will slow down any decisions that need to be made and could lead to future conflicts when the process falters at a critical moment in time.

To order a copy of the paper see here

Explore our related content