The geopolitical impact of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine is felt everywhere, and the Arctic region is no exception. Analysts and commentators have stressed the war’s detrimental effect on Arctic cooperation and governance, as well as the increased likelihood of conflict in the north. Deepening Sino-Russian collaboration—which has intensified since the start of the war—is seen as a highly alarming prospect for the region. Some have even called it an Arctic “Great Game,” reminiscent of the 19th-century struggle between the Russian and British empires in Asia.
What these commentators get right is that few regions are currently experiencing a more substantial geopolitical shift than Europe’s high north. But they are wrong to ring the alarm. There are important reasons why Europe’s northern flank is mostly stable and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European high north and Arctic region face five major geopolitical shifts.