Possible future Arctic conflicts

The Arctic becomes more accessible and therefore more valuable as the ice melts.
The famous North-West passage could become a regular sea lane for trade.
Claims for arctic possessions and the right to exploit natural riches of the arctic might cause future conflicts, requiring some attention by government agencies like Coast Guards and diplomats.

I don't expect all-out wars in the arctic (it's still a stupid place to fight), but some violence might happen.

An example for violence below the threshold of war, even between allied nations, have been the Cod Wars.

Iceland and the UK were in dispute about fishing rights, and some violence happened between offshore patrol vessels, frigates and fishing boats - without a single shot being fired. Ramming and destroying fishing nets were the tactics of choice.

Interestingly, the UK with its powerful Royal Navy did not really 'win' any of the three Cod Wars. They were some of those conflicts 'on small flame' where being the more powerful participant doesn't really help. Political factors were more important than naval power, this should be kept in mind by those allies (at least Norway, Canada, Denmark) who want to prepare for possible future disputes in the arctic.

Sven Ortmann


  1. In der ÖMZ 3/2008 hat H. Brill einen interessanten Aufsazu zu diesem Thema publiziert. Das Beste, was ich diesbezüglich kenne.

  2. You should take a second look at the characteristics of the polar ice cap. The North-West passage is the most unlikely route because of the many islands cooling and forming effective barriers of ice.
    The North-East passage by contrast has just one major bottleneck and two minor ones. It's thus easier to navigate. Theoretically, you could have two harbours on each side of the major bottleneck in case of unexpected events. The Russians today prefer convoys with an icebreaker among them. This icebreaker safety measure still makes the passage expensive as well as the modified ship hulls. But as I pointed out, Russia will be the first sea route with lowered passage requirements, allowing for a more economic use.