Book review: The Routledge Handbook of Arctic Security

First published in 2020 and newly available in paperbackThe Routledge Handbook of Arctic Security is an edited collection of essays on Arctic security topics by an array of academics and researchers, the majority of them from Norway. In recent years Routledge has published quite a few good titles on economic, environmental, and security policy in the Arctic, and this one is no exception.

Editors Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, Marc Lanteigne, and Horatio Sam-Aggrey, present two introductory chapters followed by thirty-three chapters in a hefty 462 pages. The non-introductory chapters are 10-15 pages in length and are organized into five sections that also feature a number of figures, tables and maps:

  1. Theorizing Arctic Security
  2. The Arctic powers: “Arctic Five” and “Arctic Eight”
  3. Security in the Arctic through governance
  4. Non-Arctic states, regional, and international organizations
  5. People, states, and security

The introductory chapter argues that historical tendencies to view the Arctic as a “high north, low tension” region was never grounded in reality, “…and that the idea of Arctic exceptionalism itself has also begun to be challenged on many fronts and for a variety of reasons, many of which can be traced back to… the effects of global climate change.” This theme is picked up in the concluding chapter with the statement, “It can also be argued that current American, and to a degree Russian and Chinese, activity in the Arctic reflects an emerging vote of no confidence in regional security cooperation.”

The calling out of the potential failure of international regimes is prescient in hindsight, given its publication prior to the global COVID pandemic and the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting subsequent suspension of Arctic Council activities. Overall the book feels fresh and relevant, and in particular the individual chapters on the Arctic Eight nations’ perspectives are a nice survey of the landscape.

I did find myself wishing for an expanded concluding chapter – it is just four pages long – that put more effort into drawing out common themes in the book, and perhaps for more and better quality maps. This does not detract from making The Routledge Handbook of Arctic Security a valuable reference for academics and policymakers alike.