Is There an Arms Race in the Arctic?

Frédéric Lasserre, Jérôme Le Roy, Richard Garon

Abstract


To what extent does the military posturing of Arctic coastal states reflect an ongoing arms race for the control of the Arctic? This idea first emerged after the 2007 planting of a Russian flag at the North Pole, and is regularly quoted by the media and several political analysts as the most likely scenario. However, the fact that most countries are engaged in the restructuring of their navies does not mean they are engaged in an arms race, a behaviour where every country increases its military capacity in reaction to the neighbours’ developments. The overall picture of Arctic military evolution is one of limited modernization, limited increases or change in equipment. There has indeed been some modest military buildup by the Arctic states, and often the new equipment was replacement, not expansion. But that buildup hardly signals aggressive designs. Rather, it seems little more than a prosaic response to expanded jurisdictional space with the melting of the ice, and continued resource development

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JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.