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The Arctic: Avoiding a Polarized Pole

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The prospect of a strategically stable Arctic—where commercial activity and exploitation take place in a peaceful, co-operative, and environmentally responsible fashion—is under threat. The main challenge, aside from the physical difficulties associated with operating in such a harsh and climatically dynamic area, arises from the growing division and disagreement between the Arctic states themselves and non-Arctic stakeholders. This is hampering a shared understanding of the environment at a time when rapid change is evident. Rather than allowing potentially contentious issues, such as governance and concerns over growing regionalism to delay progress, the opportunity now exists to facilitate shared solutions. This applies to a number of problems, principally in the scientific, maritime, and commercial domains, which maximize the opportunity for co-operation and which recognize a common international equity in a benign Arctic future. There is a genuine role for the United Kingdom and others who seek a collaborative future for the Arctic in this process. This should include supporting United Nations and Arctic Council efforts in the Arctic and assisting in the development of workable NATO and EU Arctic policies, which reassure strategic partners and accommodate other stakeholder interests. The paper aims to set the wider context in which the United Kingdom—a country ideally placed in terms of polar credibility and global engagement—might approach a rapidly changing Arctic in a way that complements broader engagement in the Arctic and helps to avoid a potentially destabilizing stand-off in the region.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-05-01

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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