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Armes race in the Arctic reflect border demarcations, says SIPRI.

Arctic Iceberg. Photo Credit Konrad , Steffen University of Colorado , Reuters

The current build-up of military capabilities in the Arctic area by the five Arctic littoral states—Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States—is not necessarily cause for concern, according to a new SIPRI background paper launched today ahead of this week’s meeting of the Arctic Council in Stockholm.

The background paper, entitled Military Capabilities in the Arctic, is based on the findings of SIPRI Senior Researcher Siemon Wezeman and shows that while governments of the five Arctic states have made protection of their Arctic territory a priority, the military build-up is limited.

The effects of climate change are making the Arctic more accessible to economic activity—including exploitation of oil, gas and fish—and increased commercial traffic. Arctic governments have responded with increased attention to the region in several fields, including the military.

However, rather than projecting power over the Arctic as a whole, the increased military capabilities described in the background paper are generally limited to forces and equipment for policing and protection of recognized national territories and territorial waters.

Military interest in the region does exist. Canada, Denmark and Norway are moving forces into their respective Arctic regions and acquiring weapons and equipment for specific Arctic use. Russia has also started to expand its Arctic military capabilities, while the USA’s Arctic security concerns still play only a minor role in its overall defence policy.

Although some tensions have emerged in the region, cooperation, not conflict, is more visible in the Arctic. Norway and Russia have settled a 40-year border dispute in the Barents Sea and Arctic states are enjoying stable and peaceful bilateral relations. Meanwhile, the Arctic Council is coming into its own as an important sub-regional organization.

The so-called ‘scramble for the Arctic’, whereby Arctic states compete for the region’s resources, has not proven to be a military affair. Rather, the littoral states remain committed to…READ MORE HERE