National Security and International Environmental Cooperation in the Arctic - the Case of the Northern Sea Route

(By Willy ostreng (ed.), Franklyn Griffiths, Raphael Vartanov, Aleksei Roginko, Vladimir Kolossov ; INSROP Working Paper No. 83 – 1997, IV.2.1)


The basic objective of this report has been to place the Northern Sea Route, as the most large-scale economic endeavour of the North, into the broader picture of contemporary Arctic politics. Or put somewhat differently: to assess the political prerequisites involved in getting international use of the NSR recognized as a pan-Arctic challenge to be an object of concerted concern between the Arctic states, i.e. USA, Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway. The focus is on the issue-specific needs, properties and interactional pattern existing between the two driving forces of regional politics: the urge to achieve an adequate level of environmental protection to sustain an eco-system of unique fragility, and the need to utilize regional environmental and geographical components for the sake of preserving national security.

Among the many conclusions drawn we will single out some:

  • There are no objective military-strategic obstacles to employ the NSR for international shipping,
  • The Arctic states differ both in their policy fit between the three words 'environment', 'security' and Arctic, and in their security attachments, dependence and approaches to the Arctic. This underscores the diversity among Arctic states when it comes to their political value base for concerted actions and behaviour.

In order to promote the United States to greater pro-action and leadership in Arctic cooperation, the notion of 'environmental security' should be replaced with the separate notions of 'environment' and 'security'.

There is a need to clarify the concepts of extended and comprehensive security and their relations to other concepts of security such as cooperative-, common-, environmental-, sustainable security etc. The thinking about national security in the Arctic has been, and still are, blurred by this lack of clarification.

Some crucial clarifications are provided for in the report.

  • The NSR is a suitable object of international cooperation and part of the new political thinking in Russia,
  • Several levels of Arctic politics may and will insist on a say when it comes to the further utilization of the NSR and Arctic navigation in general,
  • The concepts of civility and sustainable security have a common denominator: the environment. These concepts may prove to be more useful political tools to promote NSR and Arctic cooperation than the concept of environmental security.
  • The NSR and its usage fails to attract the cooperative and political interest of the Arctic states as a group.
  • There is a need of new political initiatives to further international cooperation in Arctic and NSR-affairs.


    Willy ostreng (ed.), Franklyn Griffiths, Raphael Vartanov, Aleksei Roginko, Vladimir Kolossov, 1997, National Security and International Environmental Cooperation in the Arctic - the Case of the Northern Sea Route, INSROP.©