The Arctic: Risks and Opportunities

Developing Strategies to Address Contemporary Security Challenges on Europe's Northern Flank

2 - 6 March 2020/ 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-North primarily looks at the Arctic. This is the second workshop in a series of five events. The aim of the ESS-N is to provide an opportunity for mid- to high-level practitioners to discuss emerging challenges in the Arctic region and assess their impact on European and North American security. The exchange of insights among experts and a sound analysis of the current situation, opportunities, and risks will enhance participants’ ability to think strategically about the Arctic region.




The Arctic has long held significant geostrategic importance – from the earliest explorers and whalers through the Cold War. Global warming and its impact on the Arctic is unquestionably driving change across the region, affecting the future security environment of the Arctic and even beyond. In order to adequately assess regional challenges and opportunities, it is important to understand the economic, environmental, and security trends. Warming trends are now combining with improved technology to allow increased exploration and development of the region’s natural resources. Demands of a rising global population, particularly food and energy needs, could further drive Arctic economic development at sea and ashore. Rising activity in the region brings increased concerns for the fragile Arctic ecosystem and protection of indigenous communities.

The increasingly accessible region has attracted numerous global stakeholders. Thus far, Arctic stakeholders have largely adhered to international laws and norms. The Arctic Council acts as a useful coordinating mechanism, though its mandate explicitly excludes security. The Arctic has long been held to be a peaceful and stable region, yet the evolving economic and geopolitical interests may impact the future security of the region. While regional militaries have historically operated in the Arctic, particularly in the undersea and air domains, it is clear that military activity is on the rise. This Seminar will provide participants an opportunity to further examine the complex Arctic environment and provide strategic recommendations for regional stakeholders to address contemporary security challenges.

ess n 20 06 poster the arctic risks and opportunities v01

 The Marshall Center is hosting the European Security Seminar – North (ESS-N 19-05) from March 2 to 6, 2020. (Marshall Center graphic by Dr. Stan Jones)



The Seminar Covers Three Case Studies

During the first two ESS-North seminars, the current Arctic landscape was examined with a focus on geostrategic importance and key geopolitical, geo-economic, and environmental issues. This third seminar will build upon those findings and participants will offer a sound analysis and evaluation of three different Arctic case studies – and how the findings may apply more broadly throughout the region.

Each case study will seek to understand. Analyze, and evaluate a particular region of interest within the Arctic. These cases were specifically selected due to their complex implications across the geopolitical, economic, environment, and security spectrum.

Case Study 1 – Greenland. Participants will examine:

  • Impact of climate change on the environment
  • The political situation and Greenland’s political aspirations
  • Economic potential and foreign direct investment initiatives
  • Greenlandic foreign relations
  • Security and military considerations
  • Role of indigenous communities

Case Study 2 – Svalbard Archipelago. Participants will examine:

  • Legal framework
  • Primary actors’ positions
  • Additional signatories of the Svalbard Treaty – and their interests
  • Economic development – Coal-mining to Tourist industries
  • Environmental concerns
  • International disputes
  • Security and military concerns

Case Study 3 – Yamal Peninsula and the Northern Sea Route. Participants will examine:

  • Oil and Gas in Yamal
    • Current projects
    • Effect of sanctions/ restrictive measures
    • Foreign investors / Clients
    • Environmental Impact
    • Climate concerns
    • Energy industry as a strategic political tool
  • Northern Sea Route
    • Current and projected transit and destination shipping
    • Application of UNCLOS – internal waters versus transit passage?
    • NSR Militarization

Based on the three Case Studies, the seminar will start discussing methods to achieve sustainable development while balancing the strategic interests of the national players.


  • Analyze and evaluate the geopolitical, geo-economic and environmental risks, challenges, and opportunities for three cases (Greenland, Yamal, Svalbard)
  • Understand competing demands in the Arctic region based on the three case studies and discuss methods to achieve sustainable development while balancing strategic interests
  • Assess options and recommendations for further cooperation


Expected Accomplishments


This seminar will be conducted by subject matter experts from the George C. Marshall Center along with adjunct professors and guest lecturers offering diverse perspectives and expertise. Participants are representatives of Arctic stakeholders, to include leading Arctic research institutions, security professionals, policymakers from Arctic Council member and observer states, industry, indigenous communities, and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations with Arctic interests.

The ESS-N is designed to promote discussion amongst participants. It further offers a unique forum to effectively capture the insights of participating professionals. This seminar will thus enable stakeholders to contribute to the Arctic policy debate and further discuss the role of the Arctic in context of global security matters.


Indicators of Achievement


The primary indicator of achievement will be the ideas and outputs from this seminar that then help to inform the strategic thinking of stakeholders on Arctic security matters. A secondary objective is to better understand differing perspectives of Arctic stakeholders, allowing for the development of recommendations for potential or deepened cooperation in the region.


Main activities


ESS-N provides four platforms for the 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 rapporteurs with input from seminar-group leaders and guest presenters); night owl session held in the format of a “fire side chat”; and participants’ panels. To support ESS-North we provide academic literature in our Lib-Guide:

Impressions From the First Workshop


ess n participants



Interview with Dr. Guifang Xue


Interview with Ms. Lida Skifte Lennert


Interview with Amb. Marie-Anne Coninsx


Interview with Ms. Anna Fredrickson


Interview with Vadm Lutz Feldt


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.