Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

Rim versus Non-Rim States in the Arctic Region: Prospects for a Zero-Sum Game or a Win-Win One?

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

Rim versus Non-Rim States in the Arctic Region: Prospects for a Zero-Sum Game or a Win-Win One?

Article excerpt

Abstract: The present paper aims to develop a critical approach on one of the most urgent energy security challenges: the Arctic region. Until recently, it was considered to be a frozen desert; upon which no one raised any legal demands or interests. The global warming, the technological development and the increased need for energy resources had transformed the frozen High North into a very hot spot, where states like US, Canada, Norway, Denmark or Russia started an energy race that threatens to escalate. The Arctic became a strategic area given its opportunities: besides the energy resources, new commercial routes could become available for a longer period of time. But, due to legal uncertainties, the lack of coherent and direct legal procedures of international law, the Arctic game is an open one, in which any state can intervene and ask for a solution that is suitable for its interests. This aspect complicates even further the already unstable region. Some of the actors see the region as an international area, as a common good, where everyone has the right to explore or exploit, while the rim states see the Arctic in sovereign rights terms. Therefore, the game tends to complicate as non-rim players (the EU, China, Japan, NATO and South Korea) want to intervene in the region and try to influence its development.

Keywords: Arctic, game theory, non-rim states, zero sum game, win-win game


The international system is facing nowadays a new period of transition that can be characterized by instability, uncertainty and even insecurity, that could lead to the establishment of a multipolar system. Economy becomes a key factor of power, and, logically, the threats to its emergence, development and sustainability continue to appear. The number of states involved in the race for establishing the international status-quo has also increased as we enter a multipolar system. Having said that, a state can be threatened by another one (economically speaking) when other state is blocking the first's access to some strategic resources that automatically affect its development. The second state gained a relative advantageous position, which would generate a balance of power that is inimical for the other. Traditional energy resources are limited, therefore the entire relationship, be it bilateral or multilateral, transforms itself into a zero sum game, in which there is only one winner, the gain being actually the loss of the other.

The aim of the present paper is to analyse the impact of the new comers upon the security of the Arctic region and upon the international balance of power. These players have the potential to change the strategy of the rim-states towards a more cooperative one within a restricted group. The methodological approach consists of document analysis (direct - official documents, strategy, declarations, international treaties and international law; and indirect analysis - research documents), and conceptual analysis.

As for the theoretical approach, I choose to use the prospects of game theory, which will offer the most glibly interaction results regarding the race for the Arctic. Given the fact that the international system is anarchic (Waltz, 1979), the unit of analysis in this case will be the state. Issues of particular importance will be its interests, how does it perceive other states, how it is perceived by other states, which is its strategy regarding the Arctic region, which are its capabilities, how can its interaction with other players be characterized (attraction, combat, rivalry, mating, trade, communication or even partnership) (Axelrod, 1997).

The Arctic Region- a disputed area

The Arctic region cannot be naturally delimitated, but we can use the Arctic Circle as a directional point - the latitude 66 degrees 33 minutes north. In geopolitical terms, the Arctic was seen as a linking area between the Eurasian continent and the American one. At the same time, it was a frozen desert, which could not be used for navigation, and which could hardly be explored. …

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