Hawkish rhetoric about "inevitable Arctic conflict" could undermine existing cooperation, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy
These recent events in December 2013 suggest that the Arctic will be swept up in a vortex of militarization and territorial disputes, in a rush for Arctic riches and shipping opportunities.
This hawkish posturing, however, is not representative of 21st century Arctic relations, and could, in fact, contribute to a decline in ongoing regional cooperation, should it create an atmosphere of mistrust. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) 2013 Arctic Strategy makes a compelling argument: “Political rhetoric and press reporting about boundary disputes and competition for resources may inflame regional tension.” Further, the policy report states, “Efforts to manage disagreements diplomatically may be hindered if the public narrative becomes one of rivalry and conflict.” In what could be seen as a highly unusual policy statement, the DoD takes a clear position on the adverse effects of bellicose or misinformed communication to redirect Arctic discourse toward a more accurate appraisal of the persistent multinational commitment to cooperation.
Despite the rhetoric, disputes over Arctic resources are unlikely to devolve into conflict as states have to date been operating in a cooperative manner and there are sufficient international forums and structures (including UNCLOS) in place to manage disputes if they should occur.