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Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly

Chapter 5. A New Northern Security Agenda

Lassi Heininen et Heather N. Nicol

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1The Arctic has become a region of renewed and heightened geopolitical interest to decision-makers since the end of the Cold War. Despite the continuation of traditional security concerns within the region, attention has recently begun to shift from the military issues of strategic security that were previously tantamount to security within the region, such as the creation of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) system, to the broader challenges of achieving “human security,” countering the risks imposed by global warming, and addressing the impact of new and pressing environmental threats on circumpolar environments.

2In part the new environmental agenda is a result of the recognition of the growing impact of global sources of pollution, global warming, and military contamination on the circumpolar North. However, it is also a result of the growing awareness of the need to apply the concepts of sustainable development that originated in the 1980s, from forums such as the Brandt Commission (1980, 1983) or the Palme Commission (1982). The Brandt Commission is sometimes credited as the first international body to promote the idea of “comprehensive security” (although Olof Palme was one of the first to coin the phrase). This idea has comprehensive implications for three types of security needs, especially following the end of the Cold War: economic, environmental, and human. In discussing “Common Security” the Brandt Commission urged the transformation of traditional military-based notions of security to include a broader focus on “human security,” which would require greater international cooperation, transparency, disarmament, and demilitarization. Notwithstanding the impact of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, this new approach to defining security has had a catalytic impact on the structure of international relations within the circumpolar North as attention has shifted from maintaining strategic control of territory to promoting environmental cooperation and multilateralism (Center for Globalization Negotiations, Brandt 21 Forum 2006).

3This chapter addresses the transformation of the security agenda, which has led to an integrating Arctic region where local agency influences broader issues and decisions. Indeed, the relationship between local agency and broader issues and decisions is reflected in the reconception and redefinition of “security,” moving away from an exclusively state-centred and militarized geopolitical discourse to a more humanistic definition. This new definition is becoming increasingly relevant in the twenty-first century (Heininen 2004b) because the agencies responsible for human security have also changed. New regional actors and the new regional dynamic now focus not just on security in the sense of military policy but also on other aspects of security, such as the challenges and threats posed by long-range transboundary pollution. For example, a recently published scientific assessment of human development within the circumpolar North (Arctic Council, 2004) identified three main themes, or trends, in international relations and geopolitics within the region at the beginning of the twenty-first century, namely: increased circumpolar cooperation by indigenous peoples’ organizations and subnational governments; new efforts toward region-building, with nations as major actors; and the development of a new relationship between the Arctic and the outside world, including both consideration of traditional security policy and threats to the environment and human populations.

4Thus, while geopolitical discourse in the North has, until quite recently, focused almost exclusively upon either military or defence activities and the use of natural resources, changing definitions of human security are now influencing not only how security is defined but also how the parts of this globalized region relate to each other and to the outside. The result has been both a greater emphasis on the development of a comprehensive conceptualization of security and the development of new types of regional relationships. A restructuring and redefinition of the North-South relationship is reflected, for example, in the recently launched “northern dimension” policies of many of the circumpolar states, where foreign policy discussions revolve around distinctive attributes of the northern regions of Arctic states.

5In order to appreciate the extent to which changes in the definition of security have influenced the circumpolar North, this chapter begins with a general exploration of the definition of “security,” and the implications of changing security definitions and perceptions for the region. This is followed by a further exploration of the broad definition of “security” and the changes that the new approach has engendered in international relations within the circumpolar North, for example, its role in shaping international and interregional cooperation, and new external structures for cooperation, such as the “northern dimension” policy of the European Union (EU) or its counterpart within Canada’s foreign policy. Ultimately the goal is to identify the relationships between structure and agency in the process of circumpolar integration and the redefinition of “human security” within the North. More specifically, the question to be answered is: how has the relative power of structure and agency varied across time and space according to specific political, geographical, and cultural conditions?

6We go on to examine what is meant by “environmental security,” and what effect it has on regional and national borders. We also consider whether public concern about transboundary pollution and recent academic discourse on risk threat can be translated into action, and, if so, whether they push officials to implement changes in the definition of security. To this end we explore the way in which broadly defined or comprehensive security has become integral to redefining transnational regions, boundaries, and corresponding recent foreign policies in the circumpolar North. In the final analysis this allows us to speculate about the specific boundary effects of such changes throughout the region and to ask whether the analytical frameworks identified in the introduction to this volume are relevant to our study of transnational border processes. That is: how has the transformed security agenda led to an integrating Arctic region, where local agency influences broader issues and decisions in previously impossible ways?

7In addressing these issues we have used some very specific methodological approaches. We have examined official documents and working papers, newspapers, and commentaries on comprehensive and northern security, including documents such as Canada and the Circumpolar World: The Northern Dimension of Canada’s Foreign Policy (Department of Foreign Affairs 2000) and the EU’s two Northern Dimension action plans (European Union 2000, 2004), as well as the texts and discourse of more informal government workshops on global warming and regional governance. We have interviewed civil servants, decision-makers, and other actors at national, regional, and local levels, and collaborated on the nature of discourse deployed at regional meetings and workshops in which they participated (particular attention was paid to so-called active research methods). In light of this analysis, we suggest that, if questions of security are addressed broadly, both in academic discourse and political terms, then there are many ideas about the meaning of security and what should, or should not, be a “security” issue. The problem is to identify how changing definitions have been promoted by, and incorporated into, political and academic debate. For example, how does the concept of “comprehensive security” differ from that of traditional security?


8There are many kinds of security in practice, many different understandings of it, and many different ways to define and conceptualize it. Because the concept appeals to basic human instincts – everyone wants to be secure and different people invariably have different security needs – security is relative and socially constructed (Westing 1988). Moreover, it is defined on the basis of subjective and objective assessments of specific threats and risks faced by a people, a society, a region, or a state, and therefore has both a spatial context and a social context. Such risks can be construed as emanating from outside but also as originating from within. Thus security can be understood as an intersubjective construction and a process of securitization, much as Vuori (2004, 5) has suggested. Security affairs and matters are complicated and multifunctional, existing on many different levels and in many different contexts, which makes “security” a broad concept. It includes traditional notions about a nation-state’s predominant need for military security, which some, perhaps prematurely, now consider outdated, and for environmental security, which includes interpretations of risk and threat in a modern society. Indeed, as Miller (2001) has asserted, the end of the Cold War made room for increased attention to what were previously neglected subjects. He observes (Miller 2001, 32) that

a good example is the connection between environmental problems, resource scarcities, and conflict... [D]uring the 1990s discussion of these issues was reinvigorated. A burgeoning literature explores possible causal linkages that lead from environmental concerns to conflict, examines particular cases in great detail, and explicitly considers the extent to which the environment deserves to be regarded as a security problem.

9The new approach to security also stresses human rights, traditional society, social equity, and civil society, envisioning a sort of human and civil security that encompasses health and well-being. Today this concept of security is accepted as a given and is used normatively. The United Nations Commission on Human Security, for example, observed that “as security challenges become more complex and various new actors attempt to play a role, we need a shift in paradigm. The focus must broaden from the state to the security of people – to human security.” This includes, by definition, policies in the areas of (1) protecting people in violent conflict; (2) protecting people from the proliferation of arms; (3) supporting the security of people on the move; (4) establishing human security transition funds for post-conflict situations; (5) encouraging fair trade and markets to benefit the extremely poor; (6) working to provide minimum living standards everywhere; (7) according higher priority to ensuring universal access to basic health care; (8) developing an efficient and equitable global system for patent rights; (9) empowering all people with universal basic education; and (10) clarifying the need for a global human identity while respecting the freedom of individuals to have diverse identities and affiliations (United Nations Commission on Human Security 2001).

10Accordingly, this means not only security in the context of practical issues such as health, standard of living, and general well-being, as well as a life in peace without tension, conflict or war, but also in terms of values such as political freedom, democracy, respect for citizens, and freedom from a range of threats and risks, such as natural disasters, pollution, hunger and starvation, disease and illness, and terrorism. “Human security” can also be interpreted to include cultural survival, human rights, freedom of expression, and security of communication (see, for example, UNEP/GRID-Arendal 2004; Menshikov 2004). If we draw upon the theory of “low” politics that deals with environmental, social, and cultural issues or the desire to strengthen civil society, such agendas clearly emphasize the importance of the environment and its protection. Here the focus is not on controlling a region or gaining hegemonic military and political control but rather on reaching a socially stable, peaceful situation and an environmentally sustainable order (Chaturvedi 2000).

11Quite apart from traditional military security, the new comprehensive circumpolar security discourse, which includes people and society, deals with practical environmental issues and access to resources, as well as the social and economic conditions of circumpolar peoples. It asks new questions, such as, how do we clean up the environmental mess when the mess is a product of Cold War efforts to secure military security? Nuclear waste in the Barents Sea region and pollution from radar stations of the North American DEW line system are both parts of this mess, and both resulted from efforts to “securitize” the North in traditional military terms, ultimately creating threats to the health and well-being of Arctic populations.

12This new security discourse also asks if public concern about transboundary pollution and recent academic discourse on risk threat can be transferred into action. A perfect example of this is the so-called Murmansk speech, given by the former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in the city of Murmansk in the Soviet North in 1987 (Gorbachev 1987). Gorbachev opened the door to new cooperation by making specific proposals for promoting environmental protection and reducing the potential harm of nuclear weapons in the circumpolar North, which subsequently became a powerful rhetoric embedded in a broader definition of security after the Cold War. Furthermore, there is considerable concern about depleting ozone layers, climatic change in the North, and the presence of heightened levels of persistent organic pollutants. Several questions must be answered. Will this concern translate into action to protect northern populations from these previously developed risks and, if so, what kind of action? Will the new security discourse on global warming, environmental degradation, pollution, and other emerging threats push Arctic officials to implement changes in problem definition as far as achieving security is concerned? Will new and effective frameworks for transnational cooperation be established? These questions are vital to understanding the current state of circumpolar geopolitics and the new security agenda, and they, along with the issue of what a change from traditional to comprehensive security entails, form the starting point of our discussion.


13As noted, traditional security generally means national security based on the territory of the sovereign state. To say that security guaranteed by the power of a state and its military organizations is the core of a unified state system would not be an exaggeration (see, for example, Buzan 1991). It has also been called weapons-oriented or unilateral competitive national military security, meaning that security is ultimately guaranteed by the military or a military deterrent (Newcombe 1986). In this sense traditional security emphasizes power, political and military, as a tool to achieve national security, and power is viewed as vital to ensuring the state’s national interest. Moreover, security is almost exclusively concerned with establishing the authority of state governments and centres (Laitinen 2005), particularly to maintain control over national territory and natural resources, even beyond national borders in some cases.

14The problem posed by this view is evident in figure 5.1, which outlines one set of potential nuclear and military “threats” in the North, particularly in the Barents Sea region (Heininen and Segerstahl 2002). Although military security initiatives have been developed to protect the national interests of northern states, the fallout is potentially transnational in character, raising new questions about cross-border relations. For example, tensions between Nordic countries and the former Soviet Union were heightened in the early 1990s over perceived levels of nuclear contamination in the Barents and Kara seas, as well as the fear of nuclear accidents from neglected Russian nuclear fleets. Nuclear waste threatened not only human health but also fish stocks and maritime resources. For small nations dependent on northern resources and fishing grounds, the stakes were high indeed. Diplomatic explosions followed a sharp rhetorical exchange in which Norway accused the former Soviet Union of “threatening” the environmental security of its citizens.

15Indeed, although traditional thinking about the importance of the North in terms of military security dominated definitions of human security in the region until the end of the Cold War, the threat of military activities did not end with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In some instances it was heightened. Different kinds of military activities emerged within the region that changed the way in which both the strategic importance of the region was calculated and human security was defined, a fact, as noted earlier, that former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev recognized in his Murmansk speech.

Figure 5.1 Nuclear Problems in the Barents Sea Area

Figure 5.1 Nuclear Problems in the Barents Sea Area

16Thus, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, despite gains in human-security discourse, fundamental changes in the international system, and the obvious influence of globalization, security is still largely structured according to the concept of traditional security policy. Indeed, a recent Arctic human development report, written under the auspices of the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) of the Arctic Council, reconfirmed that the circumpolar North still has a high strategic importance both militarily, especially for the United States and the Russian Federation, and economically (Duhaime 2004; Heininen 2004b) due to the use of, and competition over, the region’s rich resource base, especially strategic resources such as oil and gas. Moreover, the appearance of the military and the construction of new infrastructure or training areas remain common within the region even today. For example, Norway and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) planned to expand a military training area for testing missile systems, and for bombing and military exercises, in the traditional summer reindeer herding area in Lakselv in northern Norway (Nelleman 2003, 1-2).

17Events such as these highlight the close relationship between the environment and traditional security (Galtung 1982; Westing 1988). The need to reduce environmental pollution and the risk to northern populations has recently drawn attention to what has been called the “armies’ war” on the environment in peacetime, forcing recognition that armies are not only “normal” polluters but also “protected” polluters, in that they generally operate outside environmental legislation (Renner 1991; Finger 1991).

18Further evidence of the transnational character of military risks and the resilience of military security, despite an overall paradigm shift, includes increased potential for industrial and military accidents of the sort suggested by the nuclear problem in the Barents Sea area. As strategic northern resources come under increased pressure, the potential for heightened levels of transnational pollution and environmental catastrophe due to industrial or military accidents expands the risk. Complicating the matter is the fact that since 9/11, public demand for a greater military presence in the North, and for a stronger military representation in national security political decision-making, has increased.

19Moreover, even though there has been a recent shift in thinking about military security and military technology, from the paradigm of “quantity” to that of “quality,” the latter has meant changes in warfare that emphasize not just quality but also “mobility.” An example is the US National Missile Defense (NMD) system, which has significantly affected the circumpolar North, leading, on one hand, to fewer military bases, troops, and radar stations in fewer geographical locations, and, on the other hand, to a more intensive military presence, including testing and training, in some northern areas suited to such activities. As large and sparsely populated areas, northern peripheries are potentially suited to deploying, operating, and testing arms systems, including nuclear-weapons systems, as well as military training and manoeuvres. This dualism of demilitarization and remilitarization has meant that while military bases are closed and numbers of troops are decreased in some regions, other regions, including new regions, are being used for military purposes (see Heininen, forthcoming).

20Thus, even as greater environmental threats posed by military security are recognized, a lack of military security is perceived as potentially leaving the region open to increased terrorist threats. In this sense it is important not to underestimate or oversimplify the issue by saying that circumpolar military threats are simply a legacy of the Cold War, a “Russian problem,” or even a northern European problem. The close relationship between the Arctic and the outside world is always present (as illustrated by figure 5.1). A substantial part of the radioactive contamination of the Barents Sea region with technetium-99 is a result not only of atmospheric nuclear tests but also of nuclear activities in southern latitudes, especially from nuclear reprocessing plants in Sellafield in the United Kingdom and Chelyabinsk in West Siberia (Heininen and Segerståhl 2002).

21In fact, the multidimensional processes that generate military and environmental risks in the North operate through a large number of actors, both Russian and non-Russian, who are interested and active in nuclear issues, including those who smuggle components of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction in and out of the region. This makes nuclear security, if properly understood as part of comprehensive security, particularly complicated, because nuclear threats are usually associated with both military and civilian activities, even though nuclear power was originally developed for military purposes. In the Arctic region, especially in the Russian north, there is no clear dividing line between military and civilian security issues, so nuclear safety in the Barents Sea area, whether based on environmental protection or human security issues, must be implemented through international cooperation, which will require strong political will and a long period of international negotiations. Moreover, official policy discussions on nuclear safety related to military sources, as well as unified states and intergovernmental organizations engaging in political discussions to negotiate agreements – such as the agreement creating the Barents Euro-Arctic Region (BEAR), or the Agreement on Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC) between Norway, Russia, and the United States – will be ineffective without the technical ability to clean up pollution and environmental catastrophes. This can be problematic, however, as the case of threats from radioactive contamination in the Norwegian Sea has shown.


22Although military security is rooted in normative ideas about national sovereignty and territory, it has a transnational character and scale of influence. Indeed, individual nation-states no longer have the ability to contain the environmental fallout from traditional security activities. However, there are other, equally important, environmental threats and risks that originate from non-military sources. In the context of this volume, a new relationship between structure and agency has clearly emerged within the circumpolar North that is reflected in political structures at the international, national, and subnational levels. For example, there has been a perceptible trend toward a new security agenda that considers the impact of globalized threats on the northern physical environment. Although in other regions globalization is often interpreted as increased flows of trade in goods and services, globalized threats within the circumpolar North include long-range air and sea pollution, climate change, and global warming. Global warming would not only affect northern communities and their cultures, infrastructures, and regional identities, but also threaten sea and air transportation routes, as well as food security and indigenous lifestyles (Paci et al. 2004). In one sense this new security dimension has opened up a new regional dimension in environmental cooperation, one that includes new intergovernmental and supranational governmental agencies to implement a transnational environmental agenda. This approach stresses that peoples, societies, and the environment are as vital to comprehensive security as geography and political systems are. Moreover, peoples, societies, and environments are local as well as regional, with the potential to be transformative in terms of both security and transnational or cross-border initiatives to advance comprehensive regional security agendas.

23This recent round of environmental cooperation, framed by transnationalism, was given new life in 1987 when, as noted earlier, Mikhail Gorbachev called for the peoples and countries of Arctic states to cooperate. Shortly afterward Nordic countries such as Norway and Finland issued a similar call when they too began to define their northern policies. These events began a new kind of international process, one outcome of which was the signing in 1991 of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) by the “Arctic Eight,” the states (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the United States, and the former Soviet Union) that cover the northernmost parts of the globe defined as the Arctic (see figure 5.2). The AEPS was initiated by Finnish diplomatic efforts and its content was greatly influenced by Canada. The signatories meet regularly in order to craft policies to increase the protection of the Arctic from environmental degradation through coordinated efforts.

24The AEPS was clearly an environment-focused initiative. Transboundary pollution and the need for environmental protection in the North were among the main reasons for this international cooperation, which extended across what were then the borders dividing the two major ideological blocs of the Cold War. The AEPS now includes the following programs and working groups: the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), established in 1991 to “monitor identified pollution risks and their impacts on the Arctic ecosystem”; the initiative for the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME); a program for Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPPR); and an agreement on the need for Conservation of Arctic Fauna and Flora (CAFF). Cooperation later expanded into other aspects of multilateral decision-making in the North, particularly through the AEPS Task Force on Sustainable Development.

25The momentum created by the AEPS consensus on resolving northern development challenges also contributed to the formation of the Arctic Council in 1993 (Arctic Council 1996). The AEPS Task Force on Sustainable Development was transformed into the Arctic Council’s Working Group on Sustainable Development (SDWG), while the council assumed the role of overseeing and continuing the work of the AEPS, but with a broader and continued focus on foreign policy.

Figure 5.2 Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program Area

Figure 5.2 Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program Area

Source: Arctic Council. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Report. Oslo: Arctic Council, 1997

26The AEPS, the Arctic Council, and other similar northern initiatives, such as the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) initiated by Norway in 1993, contributed to this broader foreign-policy focus by spurring the EU to develop its own “northern dimension” in foreign policy as part of its external and transboundary policies. The aim was to deal with issues specific to the three member states of the EU that are among the “Arctic Eight” (Denmark, Finland, and Sweden), as well as to other northern European countries (Iceland, Norway, and Russia), other countries in the Baltic Sea region (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), and their immediate neighbours (Poland and Germany). The growing recognition of the importance of the North thus encouraged recognition of a broader process of internationalization and even globalization, transforming or breaching international borders in keeping with the EU’s other northern neighbours and member states.

27It was also in keeping with broader developments throughout the circumpolar North, where the ultimate shape of regionalism and region-building within the Arctic reflected a new internationalism based upon such issues as sustainable development and indigenous representation, rather than the old security discourse of the Cold War. In this sense, although the rise of the circumpolar North may represent the beginning of a new North-South metaphor concerning dependency and development, it also represents, to some extent, the rise of a new East-West dimension among the countries of the Western Hemisphere. This is evident in the activities of the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), which aims to create a transnational space concerned directly with environmental security issues (Arctic Council 1997). In effect the AMAP is the instrument that defines the Arctic Council’s environmental mandate in the circumpolar region.

28The idea of environmental security is relevant for the North given the increasing number of complicated environmental conflicts occurring there. Although these are mainly due to the expanded use of, and competition over, natural resources, they are also partly due to the rich variety of regional actors and those from outside the region with different interests. Arctic political communities are beginning to play a more important role in the process of defining translational and cross-border cooperation. For example, northern indigenous peoples’ definitions of “human security” often differ appreciably from those of southern majorities. Northern indigenous peoples hope not only to decrease the influence of, and their dependence on, non-regional actors and outside forces, who interpret the region as a potential military arena or a reserve of natural resources, but also to promote sustainable development in the region (Heininen, Käkönen, and Jalonen 1995). Competition, or even conflict, between indigenous peoples and the respective Arctic states has the potential to continue, especially in the context of the Arctic Council, as when the council attempts to define “sustainable development” and, more especially, to implement it in the Arctic as both a main goal and another pillar of its agenda (Heininen 2004a).

29This observation is even more cogent for the oil-dependent states and centres of the Northern Hemisphere because of their heightened demand for hydrocarbon resources and the evidence of large, untapped oil reserves in the circumpolar region. The geopolitics of oil and other strategic resources has no doubt played a considerable role in the efforts of both the United States and Canada to maintain control over vast northern regions in North America. Recent debate has focused on the perceived need to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), regardless of its designation as a protected area, a debate that has created ripples of reaction throughout the United States, as well as within the political and indigenous communities of Canada. The ANWR debate highlights the degree to which issues other than ballistic missiles and nuclear submarines have become incorporated into northern security discourses. The focus of the debate is clearly the issue of energy security versus the protection of natural wilderness and the Central Arctic and Porcupine caribou herds. Even more important, from this perspective, is the fact that oil exploitation in the wildlife refuge may potentially threaten human security, specifically the livelihoods of the Gwich’in people, who are situated in the Canadian Arctic proximate to the ANWR and are partly dependent on the Porcupine caribou herd that calves inside it. The ANWR dispute looms as a cross-border issue, pitting the discourse of US energy security against those of sustainable development, food security, and comprehensive human security. The Gwich’in claim that the destruction of ANWR habitat, specifically in the area of the coastal calving grounds, may well result in the decimation of the caribou herds, which cross international borders in the spring and fall, and the destruction of their traditional food base and culture.

30This dispute not only pits country against country but also pits each country’s distinctive geopolitical discourse and understanding of human security against the other. Indeed, the predominant US view of the North American circumpolar North lacks a more general or even geographical perspective, as well as a focus on human security. Counter to the northern European approach, for example, US interests in the region are not multilateral and are limited almost exclusively to environmental concerns, as evidenced by the nature of its participation in the AEPS and the Arctic Council, and by the structure of scientific research emanating from US foundations that focus on the North. Furthermore, the goals of the United States are strategic, as illustrated by its North Europe Initiative (NEI) of the 1990s and early twenty-first century. A policy directed toward the Baltic Sea region and northwestern Russia, the NEI was promoted as an effort to engage northern Europe in a democracy project, couched in the discourse of human security (see Shearer 1997; Talbott 1997). In reality it focused on strategic geopolitical goals, such as erasing East-West divisions by increasing stability in northern Europe, with a plan to include the Baltic states in NATO, to support their inclusion in the EU, and to engage Russia in new dialogues.

31This returns us to the question raised at the outset of this chapter: have new security agendas been translated into changes in problem definition within the North and has concern been translated into action? In this sense it is important to understand how broader concerns such as human or civil security, constructed with reference to the environment, are addressed within the region. This is particularly relevant to such basic areas as achieving food security under conditions of rapid climate change, which challenge the ability of indigenous peoples to secure traditional or country food. Although food security means “the continued and predictable availability and access to food, derived from northern environments through indigenous cultural practices” (Paci et al. 2004, 1), indigenous peoples have recently become conscious of, concerned about, and active around toxic threats and impacts of climate change in the North in general.

32Accompanying this new area of concern and activism is an emphasis on human security, directly in terms of programs aimed at human security issues and indirectly through environmental protection measures, such as activities to decrease and stop transboundary pollution, lessen the impacts of climate change, and increase the capacity for human responses to climate change. Moreover, environmental protection in the North can be understood as an implementation of a global public good, and a practical and timely vehicle for region-building in the North, especially in the context of the Arctic Council. Human security within the integrated Arctic must also be understood in terms of the political structure, agenda, and culture of indigenous peoples, and their local and regional initiatives. These initiatives are distinct from those of the South and require regional cross-border cooperation. The border between North and South is less likely to be breached as regional integration increasingly suggests a sort of East-West solidarity on specific economic, environmental, and security issues.


33New multiple, increasingly globalized (especially North-South-oriented), and long-range environmental problems, such as nuclear waste and climate change, have fostered a renewed interest in the environment and contributed to the creation of a supranational forum for discussion of environmental protection, the Arctic Council, and to the various environmental treaties that now prevail in the circumpolar North. This international cooperation has made new forms of more internationalized governance very relevant, not just in decreasing the impact of environmental problems but also in governing how natural resources are used and by whom. The circumpolar North does not have a comprehensive international regime of the same type that covers the Antarctic, nor does it have legally binding agreements to control the use of natural resources. However, some international agreements are now in place to protect the environment and promote sustainable development. The Arctic Council aims “to increase stability” and promote “sustainable development,” while the signing of the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) relates to environmental problems due to long-range (air and sea) pollution and the recent problems of traditional livelihoods. It was, all in all, an interesting success story on fruitful cooperation between northern indigenous peoples and the Arctic epistemic community (Arctic Council 2002; Flöjt 2003).

34Equally significant are the other political, legal, and institutional changes in governance that have occurred during the past few decades and have initiated changes in the relationship between northern peoples and. government processes. Some of the first initiatives in the restructuring of governance began as early as the Cold War, when, for example, Greenland obtained “home rule” through the processes of decolonization and devolution. Since then new ways of governing have been identified within the northern regions by both national and subnational governments. Among the main trends affecting governance of Arctic resources have been the transfer or devolution of power to local decision-making and the widening involvement of residents in ownership and development of lands and resources (Caulfield 2004, 135-36), such as the Land Claims and Self-government Agreement (2004) between the government of the Tli Cho people, the government of the Northwest Territories, and the government of Canada, or the establishment of the Canadian Territory of Nunavut in 1999.

35Events such as this suggest that devolution is a significant force that will likely continue to develop and influence the regions. This leads us to consider another interesting issue, the relationship between security and governance, particularly the problem of developing a regionally based capacity for response to security affairs, even security policy, within the circumpolar North. In order to effectively examine the issue a definition of security must be adopted that is embedded within the region, one that includes development, environment, societies, peoples, identities and interests, culture, democracy, and the rights of citizens. In short it requires consideration of how and by whom security is to be defined regionally, and how it can be implemented. However, is it possible to define security based on a region (Heininen 2004a, 38-39)?

36Currently, regional governance is characterized by a dualism, or even gaps. On one hand, international organizations and forums in the North, such as the Arctic Council and BEAR, were established after the Cold War to facilitate transboundary and functional cooperation in the fields of “low” politics, in order to increase stability and security, as part of a general stability policy, the “peace project,” spearheaded by the West. These external political structures have dealt with environmental protection, including nuclear safety, but not with traditional security policy or military security policy (see Arctic Council 1996). As a result northern regional actors and residents were excluded from activities that dealt with the environment and regional development, as well as from security-policy planning. This was both problematic and sensitive since security was still interpreted to mean only traditional security based upon a state, guaranteed ultimately by the military, and discussed and defined by governments and foreign-policy elites. On the other hand, these new international bodies, especially the BEAC and the AMEC, include concrete and international agendas for nuclear safety in the Arctic, where radioactive contamination and the nuclear problem were caused mainly by military activity during the Cold War (Heininen and Segerstahl 2002). As early as the 1980s many governments, and even some citizens, of the Nordic countries considered themselves as stakeholders in the international nuclear negotiations process, although in most cases they remained outside the formal negotiation process. In the early 1990s a change in problem definition occurred in the relationship between the military and the environment when the environmental impacts of the military, especially radioactive contamination, were implicitly included in the political agendas of governments (Heininen 2004c).

37Therefore it can be argued that an effort to define a “regionally based” security has emerged in northern Europe, which is particularly persuasive in terms of reflecting how a “circumpolar North” has resulted from new constructions of threats and new definitions of security. Although international cooperation is needed to implement the concept of comprehensive security, including nuclear safety, a common political will is the first requirement. This remains a sensitive and complicated question for the international system and its traditional security structure, as well as a challenge for northern peoples.


38Why has the changing definition of security produced a corresponding alteration in the function of boundaries in the circumpolar North in recent years? Has the change been equal everywhere? To answer these questions it must be noted that, according to traditional “realist” schools of political geography, the purpose of a boundary or even an explicit border is to differentiate between or separate peoples, cultures, and regions. This is quite different from the function of a borderland, which serves as a crossing point and zone that connects peoples, cultures, and regions. The latter is better understood when counterpoised against the realist perspective, which represents what might be called the perspective of the “new geopolitics,” and recognizes that actors, spaces, and identities play an increasingly relevant role in the construction of borders (Paasi 1996, 1998). Indeed, a borderland can act as much as a bridge as it can a border between two or more actors, joining rather than separating and facilitating increased interdependence, not just between actors but between the unified state and the globalized world.

39This particular understanding of borders is relevant to the circumpolar North because national borders in the North are rather recent, being generally associated with the colonization and militarization of the Arctic and established by events in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These recently superimposed international borders divide societies and cultures that were historically united or in close cooperation with each other and reinforce the assertion that cross-border cooperation must be understood through analytical lenses that measure the specific cultures of borderland communities.

40Moreover, because the circumpolar North consists of both the Arctic Ocean and numerous smaller regional seas and what might be considered as “rimlands,” the role of its maritime boundaries, or, in some cases, the lack thereof, is as important as the role played by its land boundaries. However, although northern sea areas are important and strategic, in many cases maritime boundaries remain poorly defined and are sometimes managed by border practices predicated on trans-boundary cooperation that precedes the contemporary era. This historical cooperation remains a strong tradition within the region and applies to more than just maritime boundaries. In some places within the region cooperation has produced opportunity and conditions for maintaining cultural networks and establishing cultural crossroads. These cultural crossroads facilitate frequent travelling, exchanges of goods and experiences, trade, and migration between communities as well as across national borders (Heininen 2004b, 207-08). Indeed, since the 1980s regional cooperation between counties and municipalities has been viewed in many northern subregions not only as a realistic possibility but also as a new resource for regional development.

41Another major complication within the international system of circumpolar countries, and especially the northern Arctic or sub-Arctic parts of each northern state, is their perception as “peripheral place.” Traditional thinking about security has historically dominated relations between the region and the outside world. It can be argued that for centuries, the North has remained, literally, a geographical frontier, particularly in terms of interconnections, communication, and trade between peoples and communities. After the First World War, but especially after the Cold War, many of its borders became more pronounced, more like boundaries, due to growing strategic military and other types of security concerns, while former frontiers and borderlands were divided by national borders, reinforced by foreign and defence policies. The resulting state territories and new borders were increasingly controlled by state actors in response to the ideological and political divisions of the Cold War, which can only be described as the militarization of the Arctic.

42These political barriers did not, however, put an end to trade and other forms of functional cooperation across national borders in such places as the North Calotte (the region comprising Nordland, Troms, and Finnmark in Norway, Lapland in Finland, and Norrbotten in Sweden). There the ideological divisions of the Cold War and the increasing scrutiny paid to borders in the North neither did, nor could, stop long-range air and sea pollution originating elsewhere from becoming a serious problem for the region.

43There are grounds to argue that northern borders are now becoming easier to cross and less strategic. Accordingly, it is clear that the political clout of borderland communities is an important analytical lens through which to understand the relationship between structure and agency in maintaining border functions. Indeed, northern borders are becoming more like borderlands and less like fences, in the sense that they are being increasingly perceived as areas where transnational flows from trade, culture, and science are encouraged. More and more frequently these northern frontiers are bridged by municipal and regional linkages, growing together across a border, as has been the case with the twin towns of Haparanda (in Sweden) and Tornio (in Finland), which lie on either of the Torne/Torniojoki River.

44Such bridging is not new but goes back to a tradition of regional cooperation in the circumpolar North before the implementation of modern national borders. Before the Cold War the indigenous peoples of North America, for example, were known to navigate the circumpolar North and actively connect with their counterparts in northeastern Asia. After the fall of the Soviet Union some researchers suggested that the circumpolar circle had been “made complete once again,” referring to the historical tendency of circumpolar navigation among indigenous peoples. Thus it is possible to argue that a borderland model has begun to replace a borderline model in the contemporary circumpolar North, and that this represents, to some degree, a renaissance in regional and local cooperation. At the same time the contradiction is that the North remains situated in a world where it is historically perceived as a “frontier,” a region unified by virtue of its emptiness and remoteness rather than by its linked human populations and activities. Whether new security parameters have changed the nature of border linkages and, if so, whether the change has been effective throughout the North are questions to be answered.


45For Russia and its predecessor the Soviet Union the idea of a “northern dimension” to foreign policy developed somewhat later than in Europe or North America. The North was traditionally a military and resource or industrial frontier, meaning that it served as a region, or the field of play, for the Soviet industrial and military economies. Support for a northern dimension or for broader human-security concerns, supportive of a more comprehensive and internationalized circumpolar North stems from Gorbachev’s Murmansk speech in the late 1980s. The current political discussion of relations between the EU and Russia, corresponding to that of the EU’s “northern dimension,” stresses the importance of the North to the Russian state, particularly in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed this kind of northern policy at the Russian Security Council’s meeting in Salechard in April 2004 (ITAR-TASS 2004). Important to the latter development is the identification of the need for a long-term northern policy by the new Russian Federation and a more academic discourse that addresses the urgency of redefining the role of the Russian “North” as more than a geostrategically important resource reserve (Veniamin 2001; Golovnev 2001, 45-48).

46All these interests and approaches coalesced in one way or another with the formation of the Arctic Council, and with international linkages that attempted to transcend the state-focused nature of Arctic governance in order to come to terms with a new host of transnational threats to human security after the Cold War. Among the most important of these were threats to the environment and to quality of life that stemmed either from industrial activities and traffic originating in the South or from southern agendas dictating the industrial and military uses of northern territories and resources. Recognition of these new threats subsequently produced action. For example, environmental and “quality of life” issues led to a sense of urgency that prompted the AEPS, and the subsequent recognition of sustainable development as the other pillar and main aim of the Arctic Council. This was perhaps the most important aspect of the “northern dimension” discourse that began in the 1990s and continues today, with its focus on science and technology, its emphasis on empirical research, and its targeting of the circumpolar North as a field for concerted international cooperation.

47The recasting of the imperative for northern cooperation in environmental terms cannot be overestimated. Not only has it given rise to the type of regional definition supported by figure 5.2 in this chapter and identified a new security threat – climate change, POPs, and other forms of environmental degradation – but it has also become a vehicle for building regional consensus. Today few, if any, Arctic countries contest the need for action on environmental issues. This new security agenda has meshed North American and European approaches and security concerns within the circumpolar North in unprecedented ways and has led to the development of the EU’s Northern Dimension strategy the Arctic Council’s definition of the circumpolar North through the AMAP, and various environmental treaties to which all the circumpolar nations have responded. In North America, Russia, and Europe the result has been a reorganization of international relations and new approaches to foreign policy based upon the acceptance of a broader circumpolar North as a field for cooperation.


48The EU’s Northern Dimension (EUND) policy responded to the new comprehensive human-security agenda in ways that were mindful of the security and geopolitical realities of the Cold War period. From the EU’s point of view, its northern strategy is a framework and process for coordination, even management, of cross-border cooperation across its borders and for continuous dialogue on cooperation between the EU and its neighbours in northern Europe, specifically, the Russian Federation, Norway, Iceland, and Greenland (European Union 2003). (Greenland counts as a neighbour of the EU because, although it is under the rule of Denmark, itself a member state of the EU, Greenland left the European Communities in 1985.) Originally the EUND was implemented within the framework of the EU member states, the Europe agreements with the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland), the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia, and the European Economic Area regulations involving Iceland and Norway. Geographically it targets a broad and diffuse area extending from Greenland in the west to the Urals in the east, and from the Arctic in the north to the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. It also covers northwestern Russia and the Baltic, and the regions of the North, Norwegian, and Barents seas, all areas with a significant northern or circumpolar, even Arctic, environment. Thus the EUND crosses several international borders as it “addresses the specific challenges of those regions and aims to increase cooperation between the EU member states, the EU applicant countries and Russia” (European Union 2003). Indeed, of the EU’s external and cross-border policies, the EUND is directed specifically toward northern Europe and the Arctic.

49In keeping with its new concern for comprehensive and human security, the “areas for cooperation” under the EUND include the environment, nuclear safety, and energy cooperation. Indeed, the EUND now has five key priority areas: (1) economy, business, and infrastructure, to promote closer integration of markets and economic integration with the Russian Federation; (2) human resources, education, scientific research, culture, and public health, to develop and promote opportunities for residents of the Northern Dimension region, particularly in the areas of science, technology, and tourism; (3) the environment, nuclear safety, and natural resources, to meet some of the well-identified environmental challenges that are beyond the capacity of any one country to resolve; (4) cross-border cooperation, to promote economic development and achieve social, educational, and health goals; (5) justice and home affairs, to promote security in the context of fighting cross-border crime, human and drug trafficking, and illegal immigration. These key priorities are aimed at addressing “the special regional development challenges of northern Europe” such as “harsh climatic conditions, long distances, particularly wide living standard disparities, environmental challenges, including problems with nuclear waste and waste water management, as well as insufficient transport and border crossing facilities” (European Union 2004).

50However, the EUND is not the same as the AEPS, nor does it define the Arctic Council or the structure of regional cooperation among the “Arctic Eight.” Rather, it operates through existing EU financial instruments such as Poland and Hungary: Assistance for Restructuring their Economies (PHARE), Technical Aid to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS), or the various EU regional programs known as Inter-Region (INTERREG) to finance specific projects (European Union 2000, 2004). Initially one of its important focal points was the Baltic Sea region, but more recently there has been a shift in political focus. With recent rounds of EU enlargement attention has moved away from the region (with the exception of the Kaliningrad Oblast) toward northwestern Russia and the Arctic, including Greenland. The second EUND action plan, which ends in 2006, focuses on “cross-cutting issues” and “key priorities.” For example, as a result of the most recent enlargement into central and eastern Europe the EU-Russia dialogue has become critical for “strengthening stability, wellbeing and sustainable development in Northern Europe.” To that end the EU and the Russian Federation agreed on four common spaces: economic cooperation; freedom, security, and justice; external security; and research, education, and culture (European Union 2000, 2006). Thus, based on these common spaces, it may be that Russia is not only a strategic partner but also a more equal partner both in European politics and, especially, in dealing with the EUND. The four common spaces will also form the main structure of the forthcoming action plan and other EUND political declarations.

51In the final analysis the EUND ensures that the EU’s environmental requirements as posed by the AEPS and the Arctic Council are met, and that necessary actions are taken to monitor POPs and other environmental threats. This process is evident in the heightened interest in building capacity for cooperation in nuclear safety and environmental issues between Russia and the EU, with a focus on “sustainable development,” in terms of resource use, and on “securing the border,” while harmonizing legislation, standards, and procedures in the interests of protecting and promoting civil society and environmental security. The latter is of particular interest to the countries bordering the shallow Baltic Sea, due to intensive and growing sea traffic, especially heavy oil transportation from Russian oil terminals to the Atlantic Ocean. Correspondingly, the EUND has played a constructive role as a practical political tool for functional cooperation in many fields in the EU-Russian relationship. The forthcoming EUND action plan has the potential to create cross-cutting themes of research and development and “tech-knowledgy” (for example, environmentally friendly and secure energy production, technology, and distribution) to bring to this relationship and to common European activities in general (Heininen 2005b).

52Although in European political rhetoric Russia is considered part of Europe, the reality is different. Before the EU enlargement of 2004 the only borders between member states of the EU and the Russian Federation were the Finnish-Russian border, which was more of a boundary than a borderland, and the Estonian-Russian border, also more of a boundary because there was no ratified treaty between the two countries. As a result visa freedom between the EU and Russia was a difficult issue for the EU, especially as Russia was stricter and less flexible in border-crossing arrangements. Although an agreement to make those arrangements easier was reached at the EU-Russian Summit in the fall of 2005, border crossings remain a challenge in the context of the EUND, given its goal of decreasing the importance of national borders in northern Europe.

53Is the EU-Russian border defined as a boundary or a borderland? Furthermore, how are the national borders of northern Europe defined and how do people interpret them? The models of “soft borders,” such as the Euregio Karelia, the Euro-Region formed by Russia and Finland in 2000, are both relevant and effective. They have increased the porosity of the EU’s national borders, turning them into a sort of borderland, and enhanced communication across them, increasing cooperation and furthering confidence between borderland populations, and building regional cooperation, as in the case of the Finnish-Russian border, the first common EU-Russian border (Heininen 2005a). Other Russian regions such as St. Petersburg and the Kaliningrad Oblast are also defining their geopolitical location as linking Russia with the West, as being “a Russian gateway to Europe,” “a window onto Europe,” or “a bridge between Russia and Europe” (Valuev 2003). The Euregio Karelia is not only a part of the EUND but also a concrete example of the EUND’s impact on the external and cross-border policies of the EU. The alternative vision of the Euregio Karelia has been used to change the meaning and interpretation of national borders by integrating the regions through a cooperative process rather than by trying to change physical borders (Cronberg 2001).

54A more advanced example of a borderland that emphasizes connections across national borders and between municipalities, which are today generally more active in international cooperation and regionalism, is the previously mentioned case of Haparanda (in Sweden) and Tornio (in Finland), located on the border at the mouth of the Torne/Torniojoki River, at the north end of the Gulf of Bothnia. This entity, which is referred to as a “Euro City,” represents local bottom-up transboundary cooperation in northern Europe. Although the plan, known as På Gränsen/Rajalla (At the Boundary), is to build a common town centre, there is already a substantial level of cooperation between the two towns, including joint investments in fire and rescue services, a common sewage treatment plant, combined district heating networks, a common international language school, a Euro college with an international study program, and mutual cultural and leisure activities, such as combined tourist agencies and a Green Zone golf course across the national border.

55The cooperation between Haparanda and Tornio started in the 1960s, when their citizens began to engage in practical activities such as transboundary shopping and cross-border employment. This informal cooperation slowly became part of a system of official institutionalized cooperation, supported by the authorities of both towns and including common use of a swimming pool and the choice to attend school in either town. In 1987 the two town councils established the Provincia Bothniensis with a common governor to promote increased cooperation between Haparanda and Tornio, and the use of the euro in Haparanda’s shops and its community budget, even though Sweden was, and remains, outside the euro zone (see Zalamans 2001; Ronkainen and Westman 1999).

56In general, northern counties, provinces, municipalities, and other subnational governments, together with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), are currently attempting to be more visible in different international circles. In the context of northern Europe several counties are active in international cooperation. For example, the North Calotte Council promotes and develops interregional cooperation between the northernmost counties of Norway and Sweden along with the northernmost province of Finland (as mentioned above), just as the Northern Forum does for the circumpolar North region. In the 1990s some subnational entities, such as the province of Lapland (in Finland) and the Komi Republic (in Russia), created a regional “foreign” and economic policy. In northern Europe the notion of a “Europe of Regions” and transboundary regionalism via the model of Euro-Regions includes East-West cooperation across the national borders between subnational units in the Nordic states and northwestern Russia. The kind of cooperation found in Haparanda-Tornio has also promoted integration across the national borders among the Nordic countries and been used as a model for intermunicipal cooperation in northern Europe. Furthermore, the Euregio Karelia has the potential to facilitate both cooperation and development in northwestern Russia. This concept of “northernness” can be viewed as representing the rise of northern regional and local actors into the realm of international cooperation due to the emergence of northern issues onto the political agendas of the Arctic states (Heininen 2005a).

57This interpretation of a border and “de-bordering” process makes it possible to redefine a region and create a new kind of virtual region. This is not, however, a completely new idea. Since the 1980s there have been ideas and proposals for creating new economic zones, such as the Rio Grande on the US-Mexico border and the Magic Mill on the Finnish-Russian border, as well as activities by civil organizations, international academies such as the Kuhmo Summer Academy, and the Finnish-Russian international research project dealing with national borders, the Karjalat katsovat toisiaan. Thus, long before the EUND was developed, Finland’s need for a northern policy was discussed in sessions of the Kuhmo Summer Academy (Heininen and Käkönen 1996) from the perspective of a Finnish-Russian borderland that emphasized connection instead of separation.

58The twin towns of Haparanda-Tornio provide a unique laboratory for border research. They have been studied to determine how a border, or a borderland, influences the identity and culture of a region as well as the human and social understandings of its people (Zalamans 2001). They also illustrate how a common history of long and rich cooperation can produce close and peaceful relations between peoples. In this case it occurred simply because for centuries there was no border in the Torne/Torniojoki River valley, most people spoke Finnish, and Saami (Lapp) people lived on both sides. Even after Finland ceased to be ruled by Sweden and became a Grand Duchy of Russia, in 1809, the national border that was established was more of a borderland than a boundary, meaning it was easy to cross. Although today the goal of saving money is one of the main reasons for collaboration, the decision-makers and authorities in Haparanda and Tornio have been in the vanguard of border cooperation on politics, social issues, economics, and governance, lobbying for changes to national legislation in both Finland and Sweden (Heininen 2004b, 207-08).


59The restructuring of the northern security discourse and the character of its geopolitical underpinnings must be understood in the context in which the circumpolar world is situated, that is, internationalism, particularly if notions about border security are to be addressed. Historically, conventional ideas about the strategic military and defence role of the circumpolar North have been oriented to its regional structure, or lack thereof, which has also helped to define its relationship to the South. As noted earlier, the circumpolar North has had, and still holds, great strategic importance in military terms. Yet there is not one “North” but many, because, by definition, the security agenda implies that the North is divided into states, despite being an empty wasteland that stands unguarded, unobserved, and open. In this sense it has been traditionally perceived as a fragmented geopolitical region rather than a coherent and integrated northern context.

60The Arctic became a region of renewed and heightened interest to decision-makers after the Cold War ended and attention shifted from security issues related to its geostrategic significance to the problem of human security, as well as new and pressing threats on its circumpolar environments. In Europe the concept of a “northern dimension,” initially developed in Finland and subsequently promoted by Finland and Sweden, gained acceptance as a basis for foreign policy development in the EU. In North America, however, the story is somewhat different. In Canada, for example, although the concept of a northern dimension to foreign policy can be traced back to the 1940s, it remained relatively dormant until the late 1980s and early 1990s, when new attitudes and a new receptivity toward indigenous cultures were incorporated into Canada’s political agenda (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples 1996). This culminated in the development of a northern dimension for Canadian foreign policy, an explicit set of ideas and approaches to northern Canada and its neighbours that differed from that of the south.

61Indeed, North Americans have engaged more actively with the idea of a northern dimension than northern Europeans have. The North has always been important, symbolically, to their concept of nationhood, defined by the broader military security paradigm that existed until the end of the Cold War and viewed as a front line of the Cold War’s military theatre, though more so, perhaps, in the United States than in Canada. Canada’s engagement with the North was, to a large extent, limited to strategic considerations based on the more widespread view of the Arctic as a frontier sparsely populated by traditional peoples living ancient lifestyles and outside the mainstream of Canadian life, but also as a region rich in natural resources. This attitude shifted substantially in the 1980s and 1990s, as changing geopolitical concerns and definitions of security, increased attention to environmental issues, and a new sense of the legitimacy of the Arctic as a homeland for traditional societies replaced Cold War concerns. By the late 1980s Canada was actively attempting to establish an international political forum on cooperation in the Arctic. In 1991 both Canada and the United States signed the AEPS, and, although the strategy took longer to establish than initially expected, in 1996, with the support of the “Arctic Eight,” the Arctic Council was formed, institutionalizing new attitudes about environmental issues and governance in the Arctic.

62This signalled the beginning of a Canadian foreign policy approach to the Arctic that culminated in a new emphasis on the environment, human security, and sustainability in the circumpolar North, as well as building upon a distinctive Canadian approach to Arctic issues. The process continued during the early 1990s, contributing to the development of a new and focused direction for Arctic geopolitics. Indeed, many of the specific protocols and programs of the AEPS were shaped by Canadian concerns. One example is the CAFF agreement. However, it was also clear by the late 1980s and early 1990s that, by participating in the AEPS, Canada had assumed an influential role that suffered from too little in the way of foreign policy to fall back on. The Canadian North had never been an arena for the development of international relations, except in reaction to very specific events. One of these events, the Cold War, prompted a closer military alliance with the United States in the Arctic and the establishment of the DEW line. It also generated Canada’s ongoing struggle to infer sovereignty over the High Arctic when challenged by the United States and various European governments. Still, cases in which the Arctic entered into Canada’s foreign affairs agenda were limited, punctuated an approach to the North that was otherwise largely determined by neglect, and generally incorporated into domestic and defence concerns as a “frontier” or “periphery.” This was the situation until Mikhail Gorbachev’s Murmansk speech in 1987, after which the Arctic assumed new proportions in foreign policy and regionally, as emphasis shifted away from maritime definitions of the region to a broader political and environmental constituency. The Canadian government observed that a clearly defined northern dimension to its foreign policy would help to establish “a framework to promote the extension of Canadian interests and values, and would renew the government’s commitment to cooperation with its own northern peoples and with its circumpolar neighbours to address shared issues and responsibilities” (Department of Foreign Affairs 2000). In other words, the northern dimension of Canada’s foreign policy was now the gateway for the incorporation of new ideas about the relevance of human security in the context of the environment and civil society, framed in reference to the northern territories and peoples of Canada, Russia, the United States, and the Nordic countries. The Canadian government asserted that the challenges were mainly in the area of transboundary environmental threats, such as POPs, climate change, and nuclear waste, which were having increasingly dangerous effects on the health and vitality of northern peoples, lands, waters, and animal life (Department of Foreign Affairs 2000).

63In terms of transnational engagement, however, different security discourses indicate significant differences between Canada’s “northern dimension” and the EU’s. The EUND is a vehicle for continuous dialogue on cooperation between the EU and its neighbours, especially the Russian Federation, and on the coordination of cross-border cooperation across the EU borders. Moreover, its goal is to focus on the sectors in which the “value added” is expected to be the greatest, the so-called priority sectors. A comparison of the first and second Northern Dimension Action Plans, for example, reveals a greater focus on energy cooperation, human resources, and social issues such as education, public health, and the environment in the second plan. In contrast, although Canada’s foreign policy uses many of the same terms as those of the EU, particularly the notion of “northern dimensionality,” the Canadian policy has its own design and procedure, with a slightly different emphasis. Its objectives mesh with those of the EUND to the extent that it recognizes the potential for forging new bilateral and multilateral linkages with Russia, especially in the area of defining and implementing broad-based human security and environmental concerns. However, the EU’s international juggling act is somewhat different: the EU member-states and Greenland have been given, or have earned, a strong, almost equal position within the EUND, which has played an important role in garnering support for the EUND initiative and its specific policies.

64Currently, then, the “northern dimension” structures the EU’s relations with Canada in specific and different ways than in previous decades, and it generally fosters cooperation, particularly in the area of the environment and civil society. The EUND’s second action plan (2004) is a specific example of this new relationship. It signalled the EU’s intention to work more closely with the United States and Canada, structuring this interaction in the context of a trans-Atlantic agenda and a joint statement on northern cooperation with Canada. This initiative had the potential for both greater cooperation on a trans-Atlantic agenda and greater divisiveness, given the degree to which the United States and Canada were ultimately linked by it. It had implications for Canada precisely because the EU’s rationale and instruments for including the United States within its general Northern Dimension program were closely associated with the rationale for including Canada. As well, because both Canada and the United States are viewed as potential partners in a trans-Atlantic relationship, both Canada and the United States were marginalized as fears of US hegemony rose. Indeed, Browning (2002) has asserted that “one result of this has been that when the Action Plan came to define the scope of the Northern Dimension, the United States and Canada were excluded.” Sergounin (2002) has also suggested that fear of US hegemony precipitated reactions whereby both Canada and the United States were discouraged from institutionalizing their presence within northern Europe or within the EU’s northern dimension, except on a case-by-case basis.

65Still, within the EU, endorsement of regionalism as a “Pan-Arctic” or circumpolar event remains a realistic possibility that may even prove to be a new resource for northern development. Historical and even mythical referents, including the images of the Hanseatic League and of Norse adventurers and explorers, conjure up a vision of a North linked, East to West, by nature and tradition, and they create new enthusiasm for the EUND in the context of a broader circumpolar project. This open support for transnational linkages is consistent with Canada’s northern foreign policy.

66In the United States, however, the idea of a northern dimension was not part of normative geopolitical discourse. The North was originally synonymous with Alaska, at least until the Cold War, when the region assumed geostrategic proportions in the fight to contain Communism and construct the DEW line. These heightened geostrategic sensitivities to the North, particularly its new importance to US military security, structured US attitudes to the Arctic, and indeed US-Canada Arctic relations, for decades to come. Americans looking north tended to see the region as a foreign place rather than a national frontier and a depopulated place synonymous with the ends of the Earth. Perhaps this is why the NEI, launched in 1997 as the first new US northern policy following the end of the Cold War, referenced a northern but “Europe-centred” and “strategic” policy framework (see, for example, Shearer 1997; Talbott 1997). The policy paid little attention to the circumpolar world of North America, giving a slightly different twist to the concept of a “northern dimension” and situating it squarely within the realm of a foreign policy for those outside of the US North. Thus US ideas about northern security gave rise to specific and limited stereotypes and policies regarding human security in the North, as well as a clear lack of focus on the circumpolar North as a broad region or international forum in which to deploy more general ideas about comprehensive security. In the US security regime borders are firm, traditional, and transgressed only by concern with specific security sectors such as pollution, climate change, or military and resource use. In effect the boundary between the United States and its circumpolar partners is defined, to a large extent, by internationalism and continental foreign policy, rather than a “northern dimension” policy. This retains the strategic importance of US borders and borderlands within the North and locates translational cooperation squarely at the national level, in Washington, DC.

67The approach taken by US decision-makers, at least federally, with respect to the circumpolar North was distinctively different from that taken by Canadians and Europeans, although there was overlap with the EU’s focus on eastern and northern European states. The US has recently revised its approach, however, discarding the NEI and developing the Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe (e-PINE). Its emphasis on this aspect of foreign policy is once again in sharp contrast to Canada’s approach. At the state level US policy-makers are less inclined to make policies that promote a formal relationship and linkages with the Arctic Circle, and, indeed, they have secured an agreement from the Arctic Council nations that the council will not be used as a forum for the making of binding policy. The US approach to participation in the Arctic Council is driven by a number of specific issues rather than by a sense of geographical regionalism. Indeed, national security, economic development, and scientific research are important US interests in the region. According to the official political rhetoric, a true US Arctic policy “emphasizes environmental protection, sustainable development, human health, and the role of indigenous people” (Department of State 2006), but it is specific to US peoples and places, not Pan-Arctic indigenous organizations or transnational issues above and beyond the environment. Consequently, in theory the US position toward the circumpolar region remains traditional in the sense that it is based upon a state-centred agenda in which security and national interests are emphasized, although with recognition of the broader context of globalization.

68The United States has other understandings of the North that are very different from those of the rest of the Arctic Council nations. For example, until very recently a “northern dimension” foreign policy within the United States meant concern with the Baltic states and “security” issues. However, the development of the NEI in 1997 was designed to address the issues of a new geopolitical order in the wake of the ending of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Since then the US approach to the North has had two very separate sets of initiatives and policy directives, administered by two separate State Department programs. In one case the NEI and now e-PINE have been steered toward meeting the more general policy goals of building democratic and stable societies and promoting free markets. There has been a focus on the subnational level – broadened out to include actors such as NGOs, transnational corporations, multilateral organizations, and others – as well as an expanded definition of security interests that encompasses a broad-based concept of human security, including “energy, environmental cooperation, nuclear safety, coordination with international financial institutions, development of civil society and democratic infrastructure, legal reform and cooperation on law enforcement, and health and infectious diseases” (US Mission to the EU 1999). In the second case a separate US State Department entity administers its participation in the Arctic Council, but it has virtually no overlap in personnel, program, or policy development with the e-PINE. There is no single “northern dimension” to US foreign policy.

69It seems, then, that the US government is less interested in the dynamics of northern civil society today than it has been in previous years. It also seems less interested in indigenous society or indigenous representation than in monitoring the Arctic environment or assessing the potential for Arctic oil reserves. Somewhat ironically, although its definition of broadening the basis of civil society has recently been modified to include private oil companies’ assessments of environmental issues in drilling for Alaskan oil, currently the United States is more interested in the Russian North. Russia’s huge oil resources may trigger close energy cooperation between the United States and Russia, which will likely entail a dramatic increase in the amount of oil being transported from the Barents Sea area to North America and central Europe.

70At the state-to-state level the US may be said to approach the circumpolar North from a position of hegemony and an attitude of “What’s in it for us?” Because of its state-centred focus conceptions of a US “northern dimension” do not, by definition, consider cooperation with Canada beyond a narrow set of initiatives based on the environment and health. In this sense the United States cannot claim to have a northern dimension to its foreign policy, nor does it recognize the need for a geographical approach to northern environments. Its concept of a “northern dimension” remains an issue-based approach in which traditional security and strategic concerns dominate.

71Yet, although the United States has not responded well to the concept of a transnational agenda within the circumpolar North, and continues to situate itself in terms of traditional geopolitical discourse and security concerns at the regional level, it has still engaged in active cooperation. Alaska is, to some extent, a model for interregional and grassroots initiatives and cooperation between indigenous and civil organizations and universities, which in turn have led to the establishment of academic, indigenous, and institutional linkages. In recent years there has been considerable cross-border cooperation, ranging from formal agreements on energy, environment, and boundaries to participation in broad-ranging initiatives to develop a University of the Arctic, to encourage scientific research within the circumpolar North, and to engage indigenous Alaskans in the process of strengthening civil society. The state of Alaska has expressed its interest in participating in the Arctic Council in five priority areas: finding common solutions to common problems; advancing a better understanding of the Arctic environment; bettering the lives of Arctic peoples; focusing on the issues of Native peoples (as distinct from Arctic peoples); and advancing the use of technology to deliver services to remote areas (Ramseur 1999). The University of Alaska is currently active within the region, particularly in higher education. including curricula and applications of information technology in the Arctic context, such as the Bachelor of Arctic Studies program.

72Thus Alaska’s participation in the circumpolar North is through traditional institutions – that is, institutions of the state government, universities, research foundations, and indigenous peoples’ organizations – rather than translational venues. Although there are avenues for indigenous participation based on regional affiliation, such as the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and the Inuit Tapisariat, US and Alaskan decision-makers have pushed for the inclusion of indigenous peoples on narrower terms, in the context of their role within US national or subnational institutions, with the intent of countering a more broadly based Pan-Arctic definition. Arctic issues are more narrowly defined as well, mainly in the areas of the environment, health, and education. Nonetheless, the Alaskan perspective is more highly regionalized and features more prominently in the definition of the “northern dimension” than the US national perspective.

73It is clear that the formal role of the United States as defined by the US government and its goals in the Arctic Council are based on decreased cooperation. As for the US approach to the North American circumpolar region, at the level of nation states there is only a tenuous link between the promotion of civil society and human security beyond the context of environmental issues. Indeed, there is neither a region nor a geopolitical discourse that connects people and places, outside of a narrowly and empirically defined environmental agenda. The State Department’s expertise consists of personnel previously assigned to border security and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and its interest in the work of the Arctic Council is limited to concern with scientific, environmental, and technical issues affecting the state of Alaska.

74However, although the failure of the United States to engage on the level of the circumpolar North has been criticized by Canadians and Europeans, it has given Canada an opportunity to navigate the Arctic Council to some extent freed from the confines of a formal and separate bilateral relationship with the United States on indigenous issues. Canada has given particular support to initiatives to strengthen the role of indigenous peoples in regional government, and it has cooperated with transnational NGOs such as the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and the Inuit Tapirisat.

75The general thrust of US northern policy with respect to Europe, however, could have consequences for Canada in respect of international institutions and policies connecting the circumpolar North outside of the Arctic Council agenda. If, as was previously suggested, the NEI and its replacement, the e-PINE initiative, are more strategically defined than the EUND Action Plan, there may be significant consequences for Canada’s involvement in northern Europe. For example, to some extent NEI membership in Europe was linked to membership in Western institutions such as the EU and NATO, which became re-envisioned as a “community of values” (see Browning 2002). The EU and European countries were quick to appreciate this problem, and indeed Browning claims that there were attempts to marginalize the NEI and, presumably, subsequent initiatives for fear of US definition and hegemony within the region. Consequently, the notion of comprehensive security through building a “northern dimension” in foreign policy and its relationship to US circumpolar strategies cannot be understood without reference to the broader framework of Arctic international cooperation and new human security concerns.

76Today international relations are framed by the context of a multinational circumpolar context and globalization. At the same time, Canada has its own set of foreign-policy objectives and emphases that must be accommodated, not the least of which is its bilateral relationship with the United States. For Canadian policy-makers it is less a question of how multilateralism within Arctic cooperation will affect the equally important bilateral relationship with the United States than it is one of how to situate the bilateral Canada-US relationship in the increasingly globalized and regionalized context of a circumpolar North and a new “North-South metaphor.”

77This situation helps to explain why, over the past decade, a different type of translational structure and border management regime has, arguably, existed among North American nations compared to those of northern Europe, the EU, or Russia. In North America since the ending of the Cold War, transboundary cooperation in the North, coupled with a new emphasis on regionalism, has reinforced rather than diminished the prominence of the international system. Thus, boundary cooperation in a large part of the region is defined through a series of treaties, agreements, and cooperative initiatives made at the state-to-state level. Border management has become instrumentalized by a series of sectoral and comprehensive national and international agreements, rather than by translational policies targeted to border areas or local scales, although this is less true in northern Europe or the EU, even in their border relationships with Russia.

78Still, in the long run this may prove not to be a particularly effective means of promoting security. New developments in information and communication technology, which have the potential to provide northern populations greater access to health and education services, are limited to some extent by the correspondingly limited potential for aggregate demand within the current circumpolar international order. Yet, although such technology is not restricted in application to the strengthening of civil society, its ability to contribute to civil society in the North is clearly constrained in large measure by policies that reinforce the fundamental divisions inherent in the Westphalian international order.


79The repercussions of this shift in boundary cooperation and border management have had a significant impact on the international organization of the region, from the late 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev called for cooperation in the Arctic, via the signing of the AEPS in 1991, to the formation of the Arctic Council in 1996. The council assumed a new role of overseeing and continuing the work of the AEPS, but with a broader focus on foreign policy and a new emphasis on the need for coordinated international effort to achieve the goals of sustainable development within the circumpolar North.

80The consensus in favour of “sustainable development” was influenced by the acceptance of the broader definition of “human security” described earlier in this chapter. This consensus was based on a variety of considerations, most of which were triggered by a series of new security challenges in the region, including the visible gap between standards of living and environmental quality; environmental concerns raised by global climate change and pollution, including POPs and nuclear waste; and the legacy of the military contamination of sensitive circumpolar environments (Heininen 2002).

81Clearly, much of the reinvigoration of northern issues in recent years has come from an emerging circumpolar perspective that is based on a new multinational geopolitical discourse. Although geopolitics, interpreted as traditional security policy (the military control of geographical spaces), as well as geopolitical discourses of natural resource use, has always played a dominant role in defining the relations between “North” and “South” by contributing to the structure of the relationship between the Arctic and the outside world, the new geopolitical discourse, and new set of foreign policy practices and themes within the circumpolar North, are very specific about the need to achieve the broad goals of “human security” and “sustainable development.” A new and globalized “human security” geopolitical discourse or model has now appeared within the region (Heininen 2004b; Chaturvedi 2000), which brings us back to the point raised at the outset of this chapter, namely, that this new discourse finds its focal point in the Arctic but extends to cooperative agreements and institutions outside the region. Thus, although the politics of the Cold War dictated that the Arctic region be treated as part of a broader strategy of exclusion and confrontation, it is clear that the politics of globalization and the diffusion of power now highlight the importance of the circumpolar region as an area for inclusion and cooperation. (Heininen 2004b)

82New security discourses have affected transnationalism and resulted in new foreign policy and cooperative mechanisms. The “northern dimension” policies of Canada and of the EU, and to a lesser extent of the United States, are similar in that they address what were previously state-centred, specifically national issues with more internationalized thinking about regional cooperation. All of these actors have a stake in recasting and internationalizing the geopolitical and territorial dimensions of the new circumpolar region. At the same time, they are required to translate such reterritorialization into state-centred rhetoric and practice. It is not, therefore, simply a problem of individual countries “fitting in” or “falling out” in terms of acceptable practice, but one of reinventing region-building from the bottom up. New alignments are forming as NGOs and governmental organizations adapt to the fact that, until now, region-building in the North has been a state-dominated, top-down activity. Seen in this way, contestation, competition, and even conflict and negotiation are necessary parts of the region-building process, not outcomes. This is consistent with the new northern European focus on sustainable development within the Arctic and the development of strengthened northern civil societies.

83The concept of a circumpolar region is mutual and overlapping. Policy frameworks recognize, participate in, and otherwise involve the Arctic Council. Although there are grounds for debate, even disagreement, between member-states of the Arctic Council over the degree to which it should move beyond specific environmental goals, the council’s explicit goal includes sustainable development, while the goals of its member-states include to some degree the establishment of regional institutions. This is vital to achieving the ultimate goals of a “Pan-Arctic” space and transnational institutions, as well as an important first step, one that cannot be divorced from the redefinition of new ideas about security and the significance of overcoming regional obstacles. It seems, then, that the northern hierarchy of, and discourses on, threat pictures now has a separate agenda on security. This new agenda is slowly but surely changing the calculus of security within the circumpolar region and is a substantial development in a region where little consideration was previously given to human security concerns. As Heubert (2004) has asserted, the circumpolar North was a geographical region summed up by harsh conditions and isolation of the North, and it was treated accordingly.

84In the process of redefining security within the region, traditional borderlines are being redrawn, either literally or conceptually, while new assessments about security needs and vulnerabilities are privileging one type of security over another. This is particularly true in the transformation of the international and foreign policies that have been developed in relation to the circumpolar North following the ending of the Cold War, in response to new and more comprehensive definitions of security, as compared to traditional security practices (see, for example, Walt 1991; Derghoukassian circa 2003). “Northern dimension” frameworks represent a new and more comprehensive process for redefining security in the North. Of particular consequence, however, is that in doing so they prescribe a new approach to the definition of transnationalism and the role of borders in comprehensive security (Huebert 2004, 21). If definitions of security have undergone transformation, then northern geopolitical discourse has changed accordingly. It has moved from an exclusively state-dominated and militarized or defence-oriented discourse to one that is more humanistic in definition, with corresponding attention paid to developing what Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly (in the introduction to this volume) describes as increasingly coordinated cross-border “policy activities of multiple levels of government on adjunct borders.” New definitions of security have brought renewed interest in policy activities at multiple levels, which have allowed and in fact made room for greater participation and cooperation within the circumpolar North. These responses are in direct proportion to the new perception of increasing levels of environmental threats within the circumpolar North, and they affect not only the structuring of translational relationships across borders but also the significance and role of national borders themselves.

85In relation to the theme addressed in this volume, the changing relationship between structure and agency in transnational or cross-border relations, we suggest that the relationship between structure and agency has been influential in creating the conditions for a new security context within the integrating North. Our discussion of circumpolar security and transnationalism thus reinforces the theoretical framework presented by Brunet-Jailly, in which he argues that borders need to be understood in terms of four equally important and analytical lenses: economic flows across borders; structural frameworks and policy activities of multiple levels of governance (as opposed to “government”); the political strategic importance of specific borderland communities; and the cultures of those borderland communities. Although market forces and trade flows have set the stage for the tension between resource-focused and more comprehensive types of security agendas, the cross-border forces of integration reflect the influence of other processes. Among the most important of these are the shifts in engagement between multiple levels of government as an international agenda becomes contextualized within the policy frameworks of national governments, NGOs, and indigenous communities. As noted previously, the Arctic Council, for example, incorporates NGOs, indigenous institutions, and national governments in its transnational agenda.

86The new concept of “human security” in the North also relies upon transnational, cross-border cooperation, reflecting other aspects of a changing structure-agency relationship that results from changes in other types of structure-agency relationships. We have observed, for example, that the role of borderland communities has been affected by the restructuring of regional cross-border cooperation at the level of both regional governance (for example, Euregio Karelia) and municipal governance (as in the case of Haparanda-Tornio), down to shared recreational facilities such as golf courses. The agency for cooperation in all of these cases has been subnational groups, but it is a form of cooperation conditioned and facilitated by new translational agreements such as the AEPS. Instrumental to this political cooperation on human security issues are the transnational nature of borderland culture – circumpolar culture being a construction of the 1990s – and the restoration of community and cultural linkages across old Cold War barriers.

87In this sense our model of the four analytical lenses holds true within this study. The notion that the relative power of structure and agency varies across time and space according to specific political, geographical, and cultural conditions has been demonstrated in this chapter. This indicates that the borders within the circumpolar North have responded to forces of globalization in ways that are increasingly sensitive to emerging comprehensive security agendas.

88Still, although it can be argued that each of the four analytical lenses is present in the circumpolar North, their importance and intensity varies. Local cross-border culture, which has a strong presence in many northern regions, is the background to, and may also be a precondition for, local cross-border political clout: this is either already dominant or, at least, the political will to strengthen it exists. Market forces and trade flows are clearly relevant to the region, due to globalization and the political, cultural, economic, and other significant flows it creates, each of which in turn creates a challenge for resource governance and democracy in the North. Finally, the idea that the policy activities of multiple levels of government are important is an apt description of the current state of northern geopolitics following the ending of the Cold War and the subsequent transition period, but it reveals nothing new or innovative about the situation.

89What is missing from Brunet-Jailly’s theoretical framework, and yet is relevant to comprehensive security in the North, is a discussion and discourse on the importance of long-range pollution and cross-border environmental problems. Are these issues relevant in borderland studies? This chapter suggests that, while borders within the circumpolar region have responded to forces of globalization in ways that are increasingly sensitive to emerging comprehensive security agendas, there are geographically specific outcomes associated with the integrating North. Market flows, for example, must be understood not only as goods and products but also as by-products of market and trade forces, such as the pollution generated by manufacturing processes in the South or the changes to global climate regimes resulting from hydrocarbon-based economies. The determining relationship between structure and agency in the case of northern market flows is not so much the characteristics of trade agreements or goods-first border infrastructures, but rather international environmental policy collaboration at the national and supranational levels. This collaboration, in combination with the political structure of local border communities and the degree to which civil or indigenous society is incorporated into transnational institutions, remains a key defining characteristic of cross-border cooperation within the circumpolar North.



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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 5.1 Nuclear Problems in the Barents Sea Area
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Titre Figure 5.2 Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program Area
Légende Source: Arctic Council. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Report. Oslo: Arctic Council, 1997
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