Newsletter: Tension mounds in the Arctic, despite talk of the opposite

The American warship USS Iwo Jima sails near Iceland in October 2018 in connection with the Trident Juncture exercise in Norway. (Photo: Jim Gibson, Royal Navy Reserve).
Dear High North News reader. It is a law of nature that an empty void must and will be filled. And lack of presence in the High North will create a vacuum that will be filled by the big powers. This week has been characterized by foreign policy somersaults in the Arctic, something that is emerging as the ‘new normal’.

Freedom to navigate the Arctic oceans are important for the superpowers. That does not mean that either Russia, the USA, England or China have to demonstrate this freedom; however, they like to establish that they can if they want to.

Senior Fellow Paul Taylor at Friends of Europe. Taylor is also a contributing editor at Politico, writing the “Europe At Large” column. (Photo: Friends of Europe).
Senior Fellow Paul Taylor at Friends of Europe. Taylor is also a contributing editor at Politico, writing the “Europe At Large” column. (Photo: Friends of Europe). 
Senior Fellow Paul Taylor at Friends of Europe. Taylor is also a contributing editor at Politico, writing the “Europe At Large” column. (Photo: Friends of Europe).

This week, Freedom of Navigation has been hotly debated.

Researcher Paul Taylor believes that if the USA were to conduct a Freedom of Navigation operation along the Northeast Passage (a.k.a. the Northern Sea Route), it might trigger an escalation of tensions.

Boiling below the surface  

The Arctic is an area of low tension – for now. Increasing tension is boiling below the surface. Literally.

“You find some of the most dangerous weapons in the world below the ice in the Arctic”, says NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in an interview covered by High North News.

Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the Alliance over the last years has operated the biggest reinforcement of its collective defence since the end of the Cold War. That includes investment in capabilties that can be used in the High North, for instance more modern naval capabilities, planes and anti-submarine warfare capabilities. (Photo: NATO).
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the Alliance over the last years has operated the biggest reinforcement of its collective defence since the end of the Cold War. (Photo: NATO).

This happens while vessels from the British Navy leads a multinational maritime operation above the Arctic Circle.

It is important for Norway to demonstrate that it is not only the prolonged arm of the USA”, says NUPI Senior Researcher Julie Wilhelmsen.  

China and Norwegian business  

This week, High North News’ Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm participated in a podcast about public security and China. The podcast is available in Norwegian here.

There will be parliamentary elections in Norway a year from now, and the political parties have started courting voters. Both the Conservatives and the Labor Party have submitted their own draft Arctic policies.

Editor-in-Chief Holm muses over the big differences in the two largest parties’ draft proposals in his Friday commentary.  

Arne O. Holm
Arne O. Holm, High North News.

Boom in the Arctic  

Russian gas producer Novatek is booming and has placed massive orders – and there is more to come.

In Northern Norway, Nordland county has received widespread praise for its new program aimed at qualifying foreign nurses in a region desperately lacking nursing professionals.

And the boom has been literal in the Russian Arctic – and may continue to be so. Pingos may be ticking bombs kept in place by permafrost. Until further notice.

And so we would like to thank you for staying with us this past week. Thank you for reading, sharing, engaging and tipping us. Keep it up, and have a great coming week!

Best regards,
Trine Jonassen
News Editor, High North News

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