Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 334

334 Arctic Yearbook 2015 the two smaller states with claims to the North Pole – are both integral members of NATO and they therefore both have an interest in maintaining the Western alliance and both countries’ governments emphasize international cooperation in the region (Government of Canada 2010; Government of Denmark, Government of Greenland, and Government of the Faroe Islands 2011). Smaller states concurrently tend to prefer international cooperation and both Canada and Denmark should be more interested than the great powers in avoiding tensions in the High North. Denmark is smaller and located closer to Russia, so one would expect Copenhagen to be more willing than Ottawa to compromise with Moscow. In sum, the current constellation of interests supports a cooperative approach to Arctic politics and to the UNCLOS process. The Arctic in domestic politics Domestic politics also play an important role for the UNCLOS process. The polar region plays a crucial role in the national imaginaries of most of the coastal states and governments and domestic political forces can strengthen their own position by playing on these imaginaries. In Russian national identity, for instance, the Arctic forms a final frontier for civilization, a “Wild North” akin to the “Wild West” in the US. The High North represents a normative mission (to bring civilization to the North), while also serving an instrumental purpose for Russia as a region of wealth that will finance Russian greatness in the 21st century. Protecting Russia’s rightful claim to the Arctic is seen as part of a wider quest of protecting Russia as such from foreign encroachment (Laruelle 2014, 24-46). The 2007 planting of a Russian flag on the North Pole sea bed can be seen as a case in point (Chivers 2007). The event had no legal repercussions – states do not acquire territory simply by planting flags on it – and it should instead be seen as an attempt at shoring up support domestically (Laruelle 2014: 10). Similarly, the High North plays a crucial role in Canadian identity, as a unique territory from which it derives national characteristics of ruggedness and manliness that separates it from other liberal, AngloSaxon states (Williams 2011). This emphasis of Arctic sovereignty has been strengthened during the current Harper government (Dodds 2011). As some authors point out, emphasizing Canada’s need to assert its sovereignty over the Arctic enables the conservative government to push for a strengthening of national defense and to appeal to nationalistic sentiments amongst segments of Canadian voters (Coates et al. 2008: 169-87). Some observers also argue that the sizeable Ukrainian diaspora in Canada explains Ottawa’s strong stance against Russia during the Ukraine crisis (Carlson 2014; Harper 2014; Hoppe 2015). The High North also plays a role for Danish politics, albeit in a more indirect manner. While the Arctic plays only a marginal role in Danish political identity, the continental shelf question is a crucial component of the complex relationship between Denmark and Greenland, an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark. The Danish government has ultimate say in foreign and security policy matters, but it constantly has to reaffirm the legitimacy of this arrangement by showing that it works to further Greenland’s interests (Rahbek-Clemmensen 2011). According to at least one line of thinking, a minor claim designed not to antagonize Moscow could have been weakened Copenhagen’s legitimacy in Greenland (Breum 2014: 186-91). However, little is known about how the continental shelf claim actually resonates in Greenland. Rahbek-Clemmensen