"Cooperation, Stability, and Security in the Arctic? Strategies for Moving Forward" conference report

Conference report edited by Elizabeth Riddell-Dixon & Kathryn Middleton
Massey College, Toronto
January 2024

This conference was held on November 30, 2023 in honour of the 60th anniversary of Massey College in Toronto.  The Simons Foundation Canada was a co-sponsor of the conference and Ernie Regehr, O.C., Senior Fellow in Arctic Security and Defence, was Chair of the Arctic Security panel.  See his introductory comments on pages 19-21 of the report.

Introduction to the Conference
by Dr. Elizabeth Riddell-Dixon

The conference brought together experts from Canada, Greenland, Germany, Norway, and the United States to address the question: how can we engage Russia in the shared pursuit of panArctic security, stability, and cooperation, while still holding it to account for its egregious violation of international law in invading Ukraine? The discussion focused on prospects for enhancing cooperation rather than on defining problems.

Russia’s war on Ukraine ended what many of us previously referred to as “Arctic exceptionalism.”(i) From the early 1990s until Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the Arctic was widely considered to be an exceptional region, charactered by cooperation and peaceful relations among all eight Arctic countries. Arctic exceptionalism conveyed the idea of an area isolated from the geopolitical tensions that were all too prevalent in other parts of the globe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marked a geopolitical tipping point and the end of Arctic exceptionalism.

It drove a wedge between Russia, on one hand, and the other seven Arctic states (the Arctic Seven), on the other. On March 3, 2022, just eight days after Russia’s invasion, the Arctic Seven paused the work of the Arctic Council. Although three months later, on June 8, 2022, they authorized the resumption of work on Arctic Council projects not involving the Russian Federation, pan-Arctic cooperation remains a pipe dream. 

Today the Arctic Seven—Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the United States—face competing imperatives. On one hand, there is the need for cooperation, stability, and security in the Arctic. All Arctic states have an interest in avoiding military encounters in the Arctic that risk escalation. Cooperation, stability, and security are important in ensuring the well-being of Arctic inhabitants, particularly their Indigenous Peoples; in dealing with search and rescue emergencies; in responding to oil spills; in developing effective region-wide approaches to environmental and climate change challenges; and in ensuring sustainable resource development. On the other hand, there is a need to hold the Russian Federation accountable for its egregious violation of international law in waging war on Ukraine. How, in light of these competing imperatives, can and should the Arctic Seven, their Indigenous Peoples, and Arctic experts best ensure the health, peace, and security of the Arctic? 

To answer these questions and to help us chart a way forward, our stellar speakers have shared their expertise and insights with us. We begin with Evan Bloom, our keynote speaker. Thereafter a section is devoted to each of our three panels. Each section begins with an introduction by the panel chair, followed by abstracts of the panelists’ presentations. In her concluding remarks, Jennifer Spence draws together the findings of the day’s deliberations. The final section of the report provides photographs and short biographies of the conference speakers.

Visit the following link for the full report:

"Cooperation, Stability, and Security in the Arctic?
Strategies for Moving Forward"
Conference Report