"A new book makes a strong case that Russia’s Arctic policy does not present a growing geopolitical danger," writes American Moment COO Nick Solheim in The American Conservative.

Red Arctic: Russian Strategy Under Putin, by Elizabeth Buchanan, Brookings Institution Press, 224 pages.

Vladimir Putin’s approach to the Arctic has long been a source of worry and conjecture. In Red Arctic: Russian Strategy Under Putin, Elizabeth Buchanan, non-resident fellow at the Modern War Institute and 1st Sea Lord FVEY fellow, contends that Russia is not a growing geopolitical threat in the north but instead seeks cooperation with the other members of the Arctic Five: the United States, Canada, Denmark, and Norway.

Much of the media attention paid to the Arctic great game portrays Russia as an aggressor, and Buchanan notes how news outlets use clickbait titles to entice readers to read extreme and incorrect Arctic analyses. Buchanan writes, “The misreading of Russian Arctic strategy has a lot to do with residual Cold War geopolitical storylines.” Indeed, one of the most pervasive myths about the region north of the Arctic Circle is that countries are attempting to militarize and rule the area. Buchanan refutes this: “Maintaining conflict-free Arctic transit routes such as the Northern Sea Route (NSR) is crucial to delivering energy exports to Asian and European markets” for Russia and the rest of the Arctic Five. The majority of the refurbished military outposts in the Arctic serve as dual-use locations for local search-and-rescue operations. Russia’s military aspirations in the region are limited, primarily driven by three objectives: establishing its sovereignty over the continental shelf, defending economic interests, and demonstrating that it still possesses great power status.

Russia’s Arctic strategy is frequently misunderstood because the Arctic is frequently seen as a region like any other region. Buchanan contends that this is untrue, writing, “Moscow’s cooperative approach to the Arctic, and indeed the absence of conflict in Russia’s Arctic agenda itself, deviates from the way in which Russia views energy and uses it as a weapon elsewhere.” A source from the Russian government shared this opinion, saying, “Georgia, Ukraine, and the Arctic are all very separate areas of conduct…we have shown adherence to UNCLOS in the Arctic and will continue to do so.” Russia has had a cooperative past in the Arctic, too. Gorbachev advocated for the establishment of the Northern Sea Route (NSR), a nuclear-free zone, limitations on naval military operations, cooperative resource development, coordinated scientific research, and environmental cooperation, among other things. Any attempt to apply Moscow’s muscular foreign policy in the Middle East or Eastern Europe to the Arctic region is therefore likely to produce strategic fog.

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