University of Limerick
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Security on ice: the historical transformation of regional security and international society in the Artic from the Cold War to the twenty-first century

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posted on 2022-09-23, 10:13 authored by Sarah Kate Milne
The Arctic to date has been a relatively peaceful and stable region in global politics, having successfully undergone a major transformation from being a strategic military theatre during the Cold War to a circumpolar region of international political cooperation in the post-Cold War era. However, as an area of regional political research, the Arctic has, until recently, been largely under-developed in the study of International Relations (IR), even though it has the potential to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the discipline. Taking a historical approach, the key research question of this thesis asks ‘how can political change be understood in the Arctic from the Cold War to the present day?’ English School Approaches (ES) suggest that order is not historically determined through cyclical patterns of great power interaction but can instead be constructed (or re-constructed) through the creation of shared norms, ideas and values. This is achieved firstly through the utilising the concept of international society and secondly by investigating how the development of international society within the Arctic impacts the level of regional security cooperation. It will be advocated that throughout the three historical periods under investigation from 1946-2019: that the United States, Russia, Canada and Finland have all expressed leadership capabilities at specific times. ES approaches also highlight the important role regional institutions have played in broadening the security agenda in the post-Cold War era. One of the key objectives of this thesis is to show how the current division in Arctic political literature between environmental cooperation and indigenous politics on the one hand, and military security on the other, is a false dichotomy. This is demonstrated through the important role that Canadian civil society played in contributing to the creation of the AC in the early 1990s, by outlining how their objectives for creating a circumpolar Arctic institution were two-fold: to achieve full political participation of indigenous leaders while developing a broad, integrated security agenda inclusive of Arctic demilitarization and arms control issues. Two further issues relating to the role of the AC that are investigated within this thesis include: 1) how and why regional powers take on specific leadership roles in an effort to maintain or change the regional order and 2) why the US prevented the inclusion of military security dialogue within the AC and what are the future implications for military security cooperation in the twenty-first century Arctic.



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