A Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and the Pursuit of Cooperative Security in the Arctic
Policy Briefs

A Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and the Pursuit of Cooperative Security in the Arctic

APLN Policy Brief 16

The following is a summary. Click on the adjacent link to download the full brief.

Changing climatic conditions in the Arctic have brought regional security concerns into renewed focus and confrontations in other parts of the world inevitably impact relationships in the Arctic. Nevertheless, the region continues to develop as a “security community” in which there are reliable expectations that states will continue to settle disputes by peaceful means and in accordance with international law. In keeping with those expectations, the denuclearization of the Arctic has been an enduring aspiration of indigenous communities and of the people of Arctic states more broadly. But proposals for establishing the Arctic as a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) face major challenges, not the least of which is the need to accommodate states still in possession of nuclear weapons, the US and Russia, as members of a zone whose primary principle is to ban the possession of nuclear weapons by any state within such a zone.

The way forward is to promote the progressive denuclearization of the Arctic, reduce nuclear risks and the role of nuclear weapons in the security policies of the US and Russia, preserve the existing non-militarization of the surface of the Arctic Ocean through a treaty, broaden the mandate of the Arctic Council to include Arctic security concerns, use diplomacy to improve global strategic relations that will be conducive to further reductions in nuclear arsenals, and encourage non-nuclear weapon states in the Arctic to formalize and entrench their collective status as a zone free of nuclear weapons.

About the Author

Ernie Regehr is Senior Fellow in Arctic Security at The Simons Foundation of Vancouver, and Research Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario in Canada.


Image: Arctic Council Secretariat/Linnea Nordström.

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