On Arctic Exceptionalism: Critical reflections in the light of the Arctic Sunrise case and the crisis in Ukraine

Author (Person) ,
Series Title
Series Details No.85, April 2015
Publication Date 07/04/2015
ISBN 978-951-769-447-6
ISSN 1456-1360
Content Type


During the last decade, the Arctic has generally come to be understood as an exceptional 'zone of peace' and a 'territory of dialogue'. In this sense, the Arctic has been seen as a unique region detached, and encapsulated, from global political dynamics, and thus characterized primarily as an apolitical space of regional governance, functional co-operation, and peaceful co-existence.

This paper discusses and critically analyzes this notion of 'Arctic exceptionalism'. In particular, the paper argues that the contemporary Arctic is not only global but – precisely because it is global – no different from any other region in terms of being increasingly subject to politico-strategic (or other kinds of) dynamics.

By focusing on two cases – the Arctic Sunrise case and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine – the paper illustrates how forces and dynamics external to the region have had an impact on the co-operative spirit and governance practices of the Arctic.

While not necessitating alarmism, the paradigm of Arctic exceptionalism appears to be an insufficient approach to understanding both the present and future of the global Arctic. The contemporary Arctic is not – and should not be viewed as – a closed system that can be separated from exogenous political (or other) dynamics and managed only by relying on governance structures, practices and imperatives related to the region itself. Unshielded from global dynamics, the Arctic has many potential trajectories that may, or may not, be realized due to a number of global uncertainties and challenges.

Source Link https://www.fiia.fi/en/publication/on-arctic-exceptionalism
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