The Arctic region has been a neglected area for many years. However with the recent discovery of natural and mineral resources in the Arctic, countries such as the United States, Russia and other European countries have been presenting their keen interest in the cold territory. In the article Arctic Meltdown, written by Scott Borgerson, the author discusses the economic and the security consequences caused by the Global Warming.Global warming has contributed to the melting of the icecaps this led to the finding of forty-four billion barrels of natural gas liquids in the frozen area of the Arctic Circle. The discovery has escalated the fight between Russia, United States, Canada and other European countries over which state legally possess these resources creating the most crucial “territorial dispute of the century.”The article Arctic Meltdown, talks about the political issues caused in the Arctic creating hindrance to the negotiation made between countries claiming its possession of the resources. Although the melting of the icecaps presents promising energy markets and the revolution of global shipping, serious problems such as the possibility of war over the territory in the Arctic region are currently being overlooked by the U.S. State Department and by the U.S. National Security Council. Since there are no legal structures available in responding to the great levels of ice-melting and to an organized development of the Arctic region, the territory is as a result in danger of being exploited by several money and power hungry countries.This proves that if a powerful country such as the United States does not step up and address the challenges faces in the Arctic, the issues evident will continue to worsen creating a possibility of a battle between nations in desire to control the abundant amount of resources available. This essay will employ the conceptual models of global politics such as realism and complex interdependence in understanding different dimensions evident to the current situation in the Arctic. Hence will examine on how the Canadian and U.S. governments should approach the issue.
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Overview of the situation in the Arctic region
The melting of the icecap has sparked pre-existing issues relating to the land claims made by Russia, U.S and other countries in Europe, challenging Canada’s Arctic sovereignty because of the increase interest of outside states of the resource available in the region. Ice caps in the Arctic are melting as a result more natural resources and minerals are being found. This has allowed a creation of shorter shipping routes that could potentially save billions of dollars each year for shipping companies.According to an estimate conducted by the U.S. geological survey and Statoil-Hydro of Norway, the Arctic carries about one quarter of the world’s remaining and “undiscovered” oil and gas sediments.Countries battle over the territory for the reason that it can economically prosper a country as a result increasing the state’s political influence and authority. This desire to attain power is embedded in every state, which is why tension is ignited amongst countries longing to achieve rights of the Arctic.
U.S and Canada relations in the Arctic
Canada and the United States’ relationship have shown some frustration in pursuing its own interest in the Arctic. Both states display enthusiasm on the extraction of the resources and expansion of a strategic military region in the Arctic.Such keenness has raised a major number of issues such as the control over marine transportation in the Northwest Passage and the domineering of pollution problems. The predicament roots back in 1969 and 1970, when the use of the voyages S.S Manhattan, a U.S. tanker and C.G.S. Polar Sea, a U.S. icebreaker motivated the issue of Canada’s sovereign control over its Arctic region that stimulated a debate nationally.The dispute over Canadian sovereignty of the Arctic waters led to the enactment of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act that allows Canada to regulate over pollution inside a 100 mile zone. In 1970, the unhappy United States responds back stating that accepting the act would “jeopardize the freedom of navigation essential for United States activities worldwide.”However in 1988, Canada and the United States signed an agreement on “Arctic Co-operation,” that allowed the U.S. icebreakers to voyage through the Arctic with some limitations and consent obtained from the Canadian government.
The claim of territory in the Arctic by several countries has challenged Canada’s sovereignty over the Arctic. In attempt to overcome the challenges, Canada dedicated fifty-one million dollars to help classify and map the border of its continental shelf in the Arctic to coincide upon the jurisdictions laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea also known as UNCLOS.The UNCLOS is an administration of law and command that regulates the world’s oceans and seas by setting up rules governing uses of all oceans and its resources.Canada ratified the UNCLOS in 2003; the United States on the other hand has not approved the UNCLOS even though the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations voted in 2004 advocating the ratification.
To tackle the current crisis in the Arctic territory, it is essential for United States to come up with an agreement with Canada to help prevent the escalation of conflicts regarding the sea-water lines and its resources.Borgenson states in the article the “Arctic Meltdown,” that the “decisions made by the Arctic powers in the coming years will therefore profoundly shape the future of the region for decades.” He believes that without the U.S. participating in the decision making to find solutions for the claims made by the Arctic powers. Borgenson indicates that without the U.S’s leadership in this matter, the “region could erupt in an armed mad dash for its resources.”
Realist theory approaches to the conflict
Political realists in international politics strive to obtain power through the use of violence.They believe that throughout history nations have either vigorously prepared for violence or either convalescing from it due to war.The conceptual theory realism relies heavily on three assumptions; 1) states are leading actors and act as rational divisions; 2) the use of force is effective to obtain power as proven throughout the past [historic wars]; 3) and suppose that hierarchy in politics “high politics” dictates over “low politics” of economic and public dealings.In addition, realists assume that the international system is in a continuous state of anarchy; which is why protecting nations own interest is greatly valued because of the mistrust of agreement between other states or actors. Most importantly, the main objective of realism is to obtain power mostly through the use of military and economic means. To analyse the situation in the Arctic, it is essential to connect some of the characteristic of realism with the issue.
In some parts, characteristics of realism can be closely related to the relationship of United States and Canada with the issue revolving around the Arctic. Canada claims sovereignty over the Arctic because of geographical and historical reasons to it. The United States searches to find a reason of somehow that the country has rights over the Arctic and its resources. Both states display their own interests in the region suggests characteristics of realism.
Complex Interdependence approaches to the conflict
Complex interdependence is a theory used in international politics that emphasis on the idea of economic independence. The theory includes three central characteristics. Firstly, the employment of “multiple channels” is strongly significant for the fact that it joins societies in transnational, interstate and trans-governmental affairs. Secondly, in complex interdependence theory, hierarchy is absent in which military security is least considered therefore does not dictate the agenda.The “absence of hierarchy” allows for the concentration of other issues pertaining to domestic policy. Lastly, the use of military force is not present between government to government conflicts.Military force in complex interdependence can be extraneous on working out on disputes on economic matters amid affiliates of an alliance, however may be essential for that “alliances political and military relations with a rival bloc.”
Theories of complex interdependence can be closely related with the issue currently residing in the Arctic region. For instance, countries interested in the Arctic only display interest to a country or region if the state benefits from it. In this case, United States demonstrates their interest in the Arctic region because of the mass amount of natural resources the region carries. By protecting their interests, United States as well as Russia and other arctic states are taking measures such as arming icebreakers to secure their claims. Canada as a result retaliates by setting up security satellites surveillance system to look for ships intruding in its waters. Another reason why complex interdependence theory can be closely applied with this situation is because of approaches Canada and the United States are taking to help reach a decision. The U.S.-Canada Arctic Policy was an attempt to join interests in the two countries over the Arctic.Although no negotiations were made among the two states, both states made an effort to approach the issue without threatening to use military force.
Unlike realism, complex interdependence theory places an importance on the roles of International Organizations in state to state conflicts. The situation over the control of the Arctic region closely relates to the model, complex interdependence. Complex interdependence is a model of theory known to be the most realistic by political scientists. A futuristic legal option that United States may consider is ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea along with other negotiations protecting interests of both countries. The unification of both countries on the issue may help tackle other problems presented by other countries claiming the resources and territories in the Arctic region.
In conclusion, to overcome the battle between states over the Arctic territory, Canada and the United States will have to set aside their differences and reach to a decision combining interests from both of the states to prevent further conflicts. One way of achieving solution to this issue is by taking realistic legal measures such as codifying an agreement, law or settlement. This can only be successfully established if Canada and the United States join their self-interests of the Arctic by applying theories placed in the conceptual model, complex interdependence, to help maximize opportunities made available in the region.