Rajani Thapa – Author
Geopolitics & Geoeconomics is in labyrinth on Arctic region. Based on the biophysical and economic data from the existing studies, $281 billion per year(studied in 2016) value of worth Arctic can currently provide. This includes mineral resources like iron ore, copper, nickel, zinc phosphates and diamonds including major reserves of oil and gas. With changing environment due to Climate Change and ice-melting(1.44 million square miles, which was second lowest since modern record-keeping began in 1970s) ; the economic utility of the region has increased a lot in the past few years. This has fascinated superpowers like US, Russia with emergence of China to have a larger than life influence in the region. The purely Arctic countries in the Nordic region like Denmark has now have to forcefully balance the Russian, American interest with the expanding objectives of China. Danes also going through tough times maintaining the Strategic Autonomy of Greenland from Chinese investment interest.
China had formulated Arctic Policy in Jan 2018; which labeled herself as the “Near Arctic “ state. Based on this policy document, she claims for the participation in the exploration for and exploitation of oil, gas, mineral and other non-living resources in the Arctic region. China’s Arctic policy emphasized for China’s role in building the ‘ Polar Silk Road’ and facilitate the connectivity and sustainable economic and social development of the Arctic. She also highlighted the need of Arctic governance as well as free and open Arctic Shipping routes primarily North-East Passage, North West Passage and Central Passage. The hidden motive is China’s continuous rivalry with the US could someday put the ‘Strait of Malacca’ in blockage making China’s supply of goods in halt. In order to address this challenge, China repeatedly showed interest in northwest Passage to cut of travel times, economical and free from geopolitical pawn. According to Central for Naval Analysis: From 2012-17, tracking Chinese Investment in the Arctic countries( Greenland-$2 billion, Iceland-$1.2 billion, Russia-$194.4 billion, Canada-$47.3 billion, US-$189.7 billion); the investment in Greenland is a great concern for the Europeans and the US. Greenland, which comes under the jurisdiction of Denmark; is not happy with the growing Chinese presence in Greenland. In 2019, Chinese State-Owned contractor China Communications Construction Company had withdrawn a bid to build an airport project worth of $420 million in Greenland due to geopolitical meddling between Denmark, China, and the US. The US which holds a Thule Airbase on Greenland; such construction from a Chinese construction company could shake the strategic alliance between the Denmark-US.
Russia has 9 federal state that touches the Arctic. She spreads from the Kola Peninsula in the Murmansk Oblast, bordering Norway to the Chukotka Autonomous Region in the East, near the US state of Alaska. Being geographically so much the Arctic; Russia has an immense interest in the Arctic. It has been maintaining its interest via 46 Icebreakers. Icebreakers is a key to navigate in the icy Arctic. In comparison, the US only have only 5. It’s main focus on the Arctic is to expand, strengthen its economic, military presence, infrastructural, tourism and technological development. Especially with the huge oil and gas reserves in the Arctic Ocean, Russia has been working with China to promote the Northern Sea Route(NSR). Yamal LNG project is prime example of Russia-China Cooperation. Meanwhile, due to climate change, Russia is also concerned of its northern population due to thawing permafrost. This thawing permafrost contributes to the release of powerful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is as a result, scales-up Climate Change.
United States perspectives :
Though the US has been an Arctic nations after the purchase of Alaska in 1867—its interest in the Arctic seems limited. NATO; which runs under the leadership of the US is relatively weaker in Arctic mobilization. In 2019, NATO Defense College reports that “decrease the risk … [and] also regulate irresponsible behavior, brinksmanship-prone activities and dangerous military activities” (Boulègue 2019, 35). Overall, it looks as though NATO does not have a detailed set of goals in the Arctic or steps to take if their goals were to be thwarted (Wesley 2017, 110). Chinese emerging Arctic strategy could hamper the NATO interest in the region if the uniform view on Arctic Strategy isn’t taken by NATO. While some argue for an increased presence of NATO in the Arctic, others have voiced concerns that establishing a NATO strategy for the region would give non-Arctic Allies an influence in the affairs of the High North (Coffey and Kochis, 2016).
In 2019, When the former US president raised about the issues of Greenland for buying it due to growing Chinese activities; Kingdom of Denmark remained in the global headline. At that time, Copenhagen stuck in the old ties with the US and emerging presence of Chinese in Greenland via investment. Ultimately, Danes rejected the proposal of the US.
Danish Arctic Policy 2011-2020 identifies the China, Japan, South Korea as a legitimate stakeholders which has interest in Arctic. Danes defines their interest particularly links with research on Climate Change, new international transportation opportunities as well as opportunities to profit from the exploitation of supply related energy and mineral resources in the Arctic. However, Denmark see its strategic rival only with the Russia( not China) in the region and had plans to monitor it. In Feb 2021, Danish lawmakers agreed to spend the half of the allocated 1.5 billion Danish Crowns on drones to improve surveillance in Greenland. However, according to Danish Defense Intelligence Service(DDIS) Risk Assessment Report 2020, “Beijing was described in the DDIS document as seeking greater legitimacy in the region, including via bilateral partnerships and the expansion of scientific diplomacy”. So, Denmark is in a forceful position to manage foreign influence and leverage coming in the form of a ‘Bilateral- Scientific’ partnership with hidden strategic interests.
The traditional presence of Russians in the Arctic region is now challenged by emerging dynamics. Those dynamics are Climate Change( Environment), Trade and navigation( economics), Geo-economic( showing country’s presence via investment), and Scientific Research. Initially, it was seen as the friction area between Europe & Russia influenced heavily by the US. Now, with the emergence of China in the playing field it is seen as more complex. Powerful states are lobbying for a Arctic governance, more flexible shipping routes under international jurisdiction in the region making it trouble for the nearest small Arctic regions countries like Denmark, Finland, Iceland to cooperate and sustain in the emerging Arctic politics. With special reference to Denmark—–she is now forced to maintain balance relations between China and the US with Russia as ever green players. The US which is the traditional security assurance of Europe from Russian and China( as the powerful source of investment in Greenland and Denmark). Both China-US are ideologically opposing. This makes multi-lateral cooperation difficult to work. So, the only options for Denmark to handle China-US-Russia rivalry is through de-hyphenation policy.
- She is the PhD. Student of International Relations & Diplomacy, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
 Gao T & Erokhin V (2020) China-Russia collaboration in Arctic shipping and maritime engineering. The Polar Journal 10(2), 353-374