Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 320

320 Arctic Yearbook 2015 Building an [Arctic] identity, you build a brand – that is, Norway: a brand – which requires that the state – the government and Parliament – have to deliver something within it. So it drives development. (H). Just as domestic pressure drives political behaviour, the international implications of Arctic statehood are no less significant. In fact, several noted that being an Arctic state means more internationally than domestically, as a status that gives Norway added leverage in diplomatic negotiations. The Arctic statestatus was described as “an important asset for Norway” (E), which officials “use deliberately in communication outwards” (B). As several pointed out, Norway’s Arctic statehood allows it an equal role alongside the so-called great geopolitical powers, Russia and the USA. On the one hand, this may have led to “a Norwegian selfperception that is a bit bigger than it has reason to be” (J). On the other, Norway’s northern border to Russia also serves as a reminder of the country’s small size, leading to e.g. heightened defence spending (J), while simultaneously reinforcing a positive image of Norway as particularly successful at international cooperation (B, I). Thus, for a small state with big ambitions, the Arctic provides an opportunity for Norway to take on a role as a ‘great power’, exerting influence far beyond its population number would suggest: “I think the other countries consider us a key state in the Arctic cooperation” (K). Or, as another phrased it: “we are not the largest nation in the Arctic, but at least we are a leading nation in the Arctic” (H). Being an Arctic state is therefore both advantageous for international relations as well as generating and reinforcing a positive self-perception among the population and officials alike, chiming well with an imagined identity of pride and patriotism. Further adding to this heightened status, several of the interviewed officials pointed to Norway’s history of polar exploration as yet another point of legitimacy in the governance of the region. The very same ideas and ideals that were drawn upon in the construction of a national identity at the turn of the 20th century, framing Norway as distinct from Denmark, now feature in constructing it as an Arctic state. Additionally, highlighting Norway’s history as an Arctic (or indeed, polar) state creates a historical national narrative, linking shared past experiences to shared future prospects in the north. In concert with UNCLOS-based rights as an Arctic coastal state, many pointed to a deep-running Norwegian identity as a coastal culture with essential ties to the sea as indisputable; indeed, attributing it with causal power in shaping the nation’s character: “My theory is that there is something different about people who grow up, through generations, by the coast and look outwards, seeing the opportunities that are out there” (F). In this way, Arctic statehood and coastalness were conceptualised as a natural extension of a preexisting Norwegian identity, thereby rooting it in an ‘unquestionable’ and timeless Norwegian essence. This also included the cognitive connection between being ‘Arctic’ and so-called Norwegian values: Of course, the Norwegian agenda – with responsible exploitation of resources, to summarise – is very much rooted in Norway, or the Norwegian, as a hunting and fishing nation, explorer nation; and there has always been a connection between Norway as a polar nation, a research nation, that wanted to exploit resources. They have historically also gone hand in hand (G). Big Fish in a Small (Arctic) Pond