The Arctic is a floating signifier that makes no sense in security discussions

One of my pet peeves is the tendency of military leaders and politicians to talk about “The Arctic” as if it were a clearly defined military space. That is not the case, and frankly it is not helpful to talk about Arctic security when there is a broad scope of ideas about what the Arctic is.

So I think we need more precise language when talking about military competition in the High North. Therefore I made this video where I make the case that there are at least five distinct military spaces in the Arctic, and that they are much more connected to things that happen outside the Arctic than to each other.

The most dramatic illustration of this is perhaps the contrast between the European Arctic and the Greenlandic-Danish Arctic. Following the security debates in these two areas is like night and day. The European Arctic is heavily militarized, and the competition between Russia and the West borders on downright confrontation. Meanwhile, Danish and Greenlandic politicians have barely noticed militarization at all and are still talking about keeping the Arctic as a low tension area. And in between Europe and Greenland we have the Atlantic, which mostly isn’t Arctic at all but is often referred to as such, and which has its own unique security dynamics.

Obviously these different leaders and politicians aren’t talking about the same military space, but often they are unaware of the difference. That is a significant source of confusion and misunderstandings. So I think we need to stop talking about “The Arctic”. Just because an area is cold, it doesn’t mean that it has a connection to another area that is also cold.




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