North Atlantic Council


Jakub Szczapa

Cite as

Honourable Chairs, Distinguished Delegates,

The Arctic was long considered an inaccessible, unspoiled area where time seemed to have stood still. However, climate change in the past 30 years has caused an ecological disaster.  There are many studies proving, that the ice cap on the High North is shrinking rapidly. This is undoubtedly a serious matter when it comes to its influence on the environment. However, melting ice caps has made this area more accessible than ever before. There can be no doubt that interest in the Arctic has greatly increased over the last ten years, both among Arctic States and countries not included in the Arctic Council. Better access to natural resources is increasing the Arctic’s economic potential, coming with new shipping routes to the north of Russia and Canada and across the North Pole, and new opportunities for fisheries and for tourism. Many of the Arctic states have published new Arctic strategies in recent years. Each of these strategies focuses on efforts to cooperate in the ecological and economic management of the region and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

However, if the icecaps continue to melt as now predicted, the Arctic region will surely be faced with a number of issues that may increase tension: overlapping territorial claims, rights of access to shipping routes, ownership of raw materials, fishing grounds, the position of indigenous peoples, and ecological disasters. Also, the strategic significance of the Arctic is increasing as it becomes more accessible. It already had a strategic function during the Cold War, mainly for the USA and USSR. The ending of the Cold War led to a relatively calm period in military terms at the High North. Under President Putin, however, Russian ambitions have been ratcheted up. Russia's military started once again dominating Arctic waters by deploying icebreakers and conducting massive military training, due to which distrust of NATO has grown. Russian Federatio...