Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 333

333 Arctic Yearbook 2015 Russia’s long-term goal is to remain a great power and a dominant state in its near-abroad. It stands somewhat outside of the current global order and has shown in Georgia and Ukraine that it is willing to pursue revisionist policies to achieve those ends (Tsygankov 2010). Russia wants to retain the ability to survey and operate militarily in the region. Russia also has significant geo-economic interests in the Arctic that make Moscow interested in keeping the peaceful regional order that currently defines the High North. The Russian economy depends on the continuous exploitation and export of oil and gas, which make up half of government revenues, and the Arctic off-shore make up a crucial new frontier for the energy industry (Laruelle 2014: 254; Gustafson 2012: 456-73; International Energy Agency 2011; Henderson & Loe 2014). Oil and gas dwarf all other Russian economic interests in the region, including minerals, fisheries, and the new sea-route through the North-East Passage. Even though these interests are, of course, important for the Russian state, they are not essential for Moscow’s long-term position in the international system. This need for hydrocarbons makes Moscow dependent on the West. Russian companies, like Rosneft and Gazprom, lack the necessary capital, technology, and know-how to develop and explore these resources and they have consequently established partnerships with Western companies that can supply these elements (Henderson & Loe 2014; Gustafson 2012: 470-72; Bradshaw 2010). Military and political tensions in the Arctic may discourage Western companies from engaging in these partnerships and Russia consequently has an interest in supporting peaceful cooperation in the region. The remaining coastal states are all part of the American alliance system that dominates the global order. The United States has few grand strategic interests in the High North. The American Arctic contains some hydrocarbons and mineral resources and the US generally has an interest in keeping shipping lanes open for global traffic and attaining domain awareness and military maneuverability in the region (White House 2013: 6-7). However, none of these interests are essential for American grand strategy in the same way as Russia’s Arctic interests play a crucial role for Moscow. Instead, the High North is mainly important for political reasons. The US benefits immensely from the current global order and Washington aims to prevent potential rivals, like Russia and China, from pursuing revisionist policies by showing them that they too stand to gain from the status quo. In the High North, for example, China gets influence over regional decision-making and Russia gets access to partnerships with Western oil and gas companies. However, the White House can soon deny the two states access to these benefits if they pursue destabilizing policies. Extra-regional powers, like China and Japan, have few interests and little influence in the region, but as long as the delimitation lines have not been settled, they can challenge the legitimacy of the UNCLOS process by disputing any agreements (Byers 2014: 125-26; Tonami 2014; Kai Sun 2014; Brigham 2014). This course of action would not bring these states any material benefits, but it could be part of a revisionist approach aimed at destabilizing the current world order. No extra-regional great powers currently show sign of going down the revisionist track, but world political currents can change fast and one cannot disregard the possibility that non-Arctic states will challenge the UNCLOS process. The smaller Arctic coastal states also benefit from the current order and they support the American course, although they have some leeway to stake out an independent course. Denmark and Canada – Carving Up the Arctic