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The Internationalization of the Circumpolar North: Charting a Course for the 21st Century
by Oran R. Young
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  Both practitioners and scholars have long viewed the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere - roughly the Arctic Ocean and the lands and seas surrounding it down to about 60oN- as constituting an area that does not lend itself to effective international cooperation and for two distinct reasons. Most readers will hardly need to be reminded that the Arctic was split into two opposing camps by the Cold War with the Soviet Union on one side controlling almost half the region, the NATO alliance (including Denmark/Greenland, Iceland and Norway as well as the United States and Canada) on the other side, and Finland and Sweden maintaining a posture of neutrality in between.

Geo-political map of the Circumpolar area.
In this context, the region figured largely as an arena or theater for the deployment of military forces, including nuclear weapons mounted on bombers and ballistic missiles carried by nuclear-powered submarines, rather than as a bridge to be used in promoting international cooperation [1]. Less well known but equally important is the fact that most Arctic lands and seas have long been treated as peripheries of countries whose cores and associated policymaking apparatus are located well to the south [2]. Whether the issues center on the exploitation of natural resources or the treatment of indigenous peoples, Moscow has controlled the Russian Arctic, Copenhagen has ruled Greenland, Ottawa has governed the Canadian Arctic, and Washington has made policy decisions for Alaska.Given the resultant pattern of North/South interactions, it is not surprising that there is no tradition of conceptualizing the Circumpolar North as a distinct region, much less as a suitable area for initiating and encouraging the development of productive international relationships.Yet these conditions have changed both rapidly and dramatically during the last ten to fifteen years. The winding down of the Cold War beginning in the late 1980s released a flood of efforts to launch cooperative ventures that cut across the boundaries of national jurisdictions in the Far North. What is more, the devolution of authority from central governments to local/regional governments in such forms as the creation of the North Slope Borough in Alaska (1972), the formation of the Greenland Home Rules (1979), and most recently the establishment of Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic (1999) has served to increase the capacity of northerners to interact with one another along East/West lines rather than being confined to interactions with political and administrative centers to the South [3]. The emergence of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) linking the Inuit of Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and the Russian Far East is simply one prominent example of this development.
  What can we say about the character of the landscape of international cooperation that has arisen in the Arctic in recent years? Do the individual initiatives of a variety of groups form a coherent whole? Can we now describe the Arctic accurately as a distinct region in international society?
  This essay addresses these questions, providing some preliminary answers and laying out a range of issues relating to international cooperation in the Arctic that require more systematic consideration.
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The Internationalization of the Circumpolar North: Charting a Course for the 21st Century,
by Oran R. Young.
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