Geopolitics and International Governance in the Arctic


  • Øyvind Østerud
  • Geir Hønneland


The Arctic has been the object of heated political discussion in recent years as the region has evolved from a potential conflict zone during the Cold War to an arena for international cooperation immediately afterwards. Since the mid-2000s attention has once again focused on the conflict potential of the Arctic, this time related to its resources. This article looks at how the research literature balances its prospects. The literature on international relations (IR) in the Arctic has been mainly empirical in orientation, although framed in the major IR traditions of realism (traditional geopolitics), institutionalism and (to a lesser extent) constructivism. The English-language literature on Arctic politics, which naturally dominates the field globally, is by and large framed in institutional terms. The discussion is not whether institutions matter in Arctic politics, but how they best can be crafted in order to maintain peace and stability in the region. Speculations about a ‘scramble for the Arctic’ have more or less unanimously been refuted in the literature. The French literature, on the other hand, is largely framed in a geopolitical context. French geopolitics is less concerned with the global power game than with the rivalry between states for strategic resources. The institutions of cooperation are, however, downplayed.

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How to Cite

Østerud, Øyvind, & Hønneland, G. (2017). Geopolitics and International Governance in the Arctic. Arctic Review on Law and Politics, 5(2).



Original Articles


Geopolitics, institutionalism, Arctic politics, scramble for the Arctic