8 - The Rise of the Arctic on the Global Stage  pp. 129-144

The Rise of the Arctic on the Global Stage

By Pauli Järvenpää and Tomas Ries

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The Arctic is rapidly emerging as a major playing field in world politics. Prior to the Cold War, it was a terra nullius to all but the indigenous populations. During the Cold War, it became of massive importance in the strategic nuclear relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. This had a tangential political impact on the adjacent regions, notably the Nordic states, including Finland, but it occupied a very narrow margin of world affairs as a whole, and one that, in peacetime, largely took place behind the veil of highly specialized strategic submarine and air preparations and operations.

With the end of the Cold War, the Arctic again became dormant in world affairs. However, in the past few years, it has been woken up again and is now rapidly emerging with full force on the world stage. One could almost say that there has been a paradigm shift in how we look at the region. There is a growing recognition that the Arctic, instead of staying a backwater of politics, is rapidly moving to the limelight of attention.

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