Contrary to popular opinion, the Arctic is not a pristine, empty white desert. It is home to four million people distributed across eight distinct nation states: The USA, Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Federation.

Allan Little looks at how the region is fast becoming fraught with geopolitical tensions. Despite all sides stressing this is still an area of low tension, Russia is building up its military presence and capabilities, with Nato countries responding with large-scale Arctic training exercises. China’s interest in the region is also creating new security concerns. But at a local level, we discover a very different story - Norwegian and Russian border communities maintain long-standing friendships.

Many argue that a new cold war is unlikely and geopolitics are overshadowing more urgent security issues facing the region. Future disputes are predicted over resource management and lucrative new shipping routes but not all-out war. And how important is the Arctic Council as the primary forum for dialogue and inclusion of indigenous voices, who must play a key role in the future of the region.

(Photo: A family in the Tundra. Credit: Stine Barlindhaug)

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