Between Militarization and Disarmament: Challenges for Arctic Security in the Twenty-First Century

  • Heather Exner-Pirot


The period of regionalization that the Arctic has enjoyed since Gorbachev’s famous Murmansk Speech in 1987 has brought stability and peace. Ironically, however, it has not led to disarmament, despite the initial premise of developing the Arctic region into a ‘Zone of Peace’, with an Arctic Council focused on demilitarization and arms control issues. Why have issues of militarization fallen so far off the Arctic states’ political agenda? This chapter will provide an historical overview of disarmament and demilitarization discussions in the Arctic, including coordination around cleaning up nuclear and radioactive waste. It will then turn to more contemporary issues around militarization: the threat of an arms race in the region, an absence of fora to discuss issues of military security; and the geopolitical dynamics, especially concerning Russia, that make Arctic demilitarization efforts so challenging. The chapter will conclude with an assessment of the short and long-term security trends in the region and strategies for more explicit peace-building, including demilitarization.


Arctic Disarmament Militarization Confidence-building 


  1. Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic. 2011. Arctic Council, May. Accessed from
  2. Andrews, Evan. 2016. What Was the Winter War? History Channel, November 30. Accessed from
  3. Arms Control Association. 2018. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at a Glance, December. Accessed from
  4. Axworthy, Thomas. 2011. A Proposal for an Arctic Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone. InterAction Council. Accessed from
  5. Broms, Bengt. 1989. Proposals to Establish a Nordic Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. Michigan Journal of International Law 10 (2): 345–361.Google Scholar
  6. Buckley, Adele. 2013. An Arctic Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone: Circumpolar Non-Nuclear Weapons States Must Originate Negotiations. Michigan State International Law Review 22 (1): 167–194.Google Scholar
  7. Chillaud, Matthieu. 2006. Territorial Disarmament in Northern Europe: The Epilogue of a Success Story? SIPRI Policy Paper 13, August. Accessed from
  8. English, John. 2013. Ice and Water: Politics Peoples and the Artic Council. Toronto: Penguin Canada.Google Scholar
  9. Exner-Pirot, Heather. 2012. Defence Diplomacy in the Arctic: The Search and Rescue Agreement as a Confidence Builder. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 18 (2): 195–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Exner-Pirot, Heather, and Robert Murray. 2017. Regional Order in the Arctic: Negotiated Exceptionalism. Politik 20 (3): 47–64.Google Scholar
  11. Gorbachev, Mikhail. 1987. Speech in Murmansk at the Ceremonial Meeting on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Order of Lenin and the Gold Star to the City of Murmansk, October 1. Accessed from
  12. Gronning, Ragnhild. 2017. The Need for Confidence-Building Measures in the North Is Greater Than Ever. High North News, December 7. Accessed from
  13. Heininen, Lassi. 2011. The End of the Post-Cold War in the Arctic. Nordia Geographical Publications 40 (4): 31–42.Google Scholar
  14. Heininen, Lassi. 2012. State of the Arctic Strategies and Policies—A Summary. In Arctic Yearbook 2012, ed. Lassi Heininen, Heather Exner-Pirot, and Joel Plouffe. Akureyri, Iceland: Northern Research Forum.Google Scholar
  15. Heininen, Lassi. 2016. Future Security of the Global Arctic: State Policy, Economic Security, and Climate. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  16. Ilulissat Declaration. 2008. Declaration from the Arctic Ocean Conference, May 28. Accessed from
  17. Lajeunesse, Adam. 2007. The Distant Early Warning Line and the Canadian Battle for Public Perception. Canadian Military Journal 8 (2): 51–59.Google Scholar
  18. Mullen, Patrick. 1995. State Interests and the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy. Dissertation. Accessed from
  19. Newcombe, Hanna. 1980. A Proposal for a Nuclear-Free Zone in the Arctic. Peace Research 12 (4): 175–181.Google Scholar
  20. Pugwash Group. 2007. Canadian Pugwash Call for an Arctic Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone, August 24. Accessed from
  21. Regehr, Ernie, and Michelle Jackett. 2018. Circumpolar Military Facilities of the Arctic Five, July. The Simons Foundation. Accessed from
  22. Rich, Alexander, and Aleksandr P. Vinogradov. 1964. Arctic Disarmament. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 20 (9): 22–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Schaller, Benjamin. 2014. Confidence- and Security-Building Measures in the Arctic: The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe as a Role Model for the Area? In Arctic Yearbook 2014, ed. Lassi Heininen, Heather Exner-Pirot, and Joel Plouffe. Northern Research Forum. Accessed from
  24. United States Geological Survey. 2008. Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal. Accessed from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather Exner-Pirot
    • 1
  1. 1.Observatoire de la politique et la sécurité de l’Arctique at CIRRICQQuebecCanada

Personalised recommendations