The Arctic: Risks and Opportunities for Europe and North America
Developing Strategies to Address Contemporary Security Challenges on Europe's Northern Flank

4 - 8 Feburary 2019 / Course language: English

The one-week seminar on the Arctic is embedded into the series of European Security Seminars (ESS) consisting of ESS-South, ESS-East and ESS-North. The ESS-N primarily looks at the Arctic and in the broader sense also at the Baltic Sea. Currently it is planned to have a series of five events over the next five years, with one seminar at the George C. Marshall Center each year and one Community of Interest (COI) in the area in the following year. The ESS-N 18-13 will take place between 09 and 13 July 2018 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The aim of the ESS-N seminars is to encourage mid to high-level practitioners to discuss the dynamics in the Arctic to enhance European and North American security. Based on a sound analysis of the current situation and risks the participants will gain state-of-the-art information to participate in an Arctic-related strategy discussion.



The Arctic holds significant economic potential due to tremendous natural resources and potential trade implications. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates it may hold 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas resources, in addition to vast quantities of mineral resources such as iron ore, nickel, and rare earth elements. The USGS estimates the Arctic has over 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 44 billion barrels of liquid natural gas of which approximately 84 percent is expected to occur in offshore areas. This amounts to approximately one-third of the world’s natural gas supply and thirteen percent of global oil reserves. Further, numerous species of fish are increasingly present in the region.

While no consensus exists amongst the scientific community regarding the timeline of ice melt and subsequent impact on maritime activities in the Arctic, the majority of data agrees we will see limited activity through 2020, with activity rising in the following decades as ice coverage decreases. Predictions indicate that ice-free conditions will soon exist, with the Bering Strait opening for an extended period around 2020, Northern Sea Route (NSR) around 2025, and Trans-Polar Route (TPR) around 2030; the Northwest Passage (NWP) will open last. With increasing openness of sea-lanes, there will be an equivalent rise in vessel traffic. While transit shipping is deemed unlikely by the commercial sector in the near term due to weather concerns, tonnage limitations, and demands of a ‘just-in-time’ shipping model, it may become viable in the long term given the significantly shorter distance for Asia-Europe markets than the current Suez Canal route. The distance from East Asia to Northern Europe via the Suez Canal is approximately 11,500 nm; the distance through the Northern Sea Route is 6,500nm. Tourism is increasingly popular in the region and the near term should expect more vessels and passengers.


The Seminar Covers Four Parts

Part 1: Understanding the geostrategic importance and the key issues of the Arctic.

Part 2: Analyzing the strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the Arctic.

Part 3: The Arctic maritime environment from different player´s perspectives.

Part 4: Developing a wider framework of cooperation and strategic recommendations.


ess north 2018



  • Analyze and evaluate the geo-political, geo-economic and environmental risks, challenges and opportunities
  • Address the legal framework and its consequences
  • Examine ways to mitigate the risks and to support the opportunities
  • Assess possibilities and recommendations for cooperation
  • Develop strategy recommendations for Europe’s northern flank


Expected accomplishments

This seminar will be conducted by subject matter experts from the George C. Marshall Center along with adjunct professors and guest lecturers from national and international European and Euro-Atlantic security organizations. It will gather representatives from research institutions, military and politics from Arctic Council states, Observer states in the Arctic Council, EU and NATO.

The ESS-N is structured and designed in such a way to be able to capture the insights of participating professionals. The ESS-N will thus contribute to the policy debate in this area by stakeholders and in the larger security community.


Indicators of Achievement

The primary indicator of achievement will be the ideas and outputs from the course help inform strategic thinking of states as well as the EU and NATO. It will be a secondary objective to contribute to developing alternative possibilities and recommendations for cooperation thus bring closer together and eventually align the thinking of the participants in this security community.


Main activities

ESS-N addresses the topic by providing four platforms for exchange of ideas, discussions, networking and strategy development: Conference-style format of lectures, panels and plenary discussions; outcome-oriented, product driven and complementary workshop format (workshops led by SMEs, supported by rapporteur with input from seminar-group leaders and guest presenters); night owl session held in the format of “fire side chat”, and participants’ panels.


For application and deadline information, contact the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., your ministry point of contact, or the U.S. or German Embassy in your capital city.