The Arctic is a global bellwether for climate change and indigenous peoples’ rights and traditions, as well as a “health check” on the durability of international laws and norms. Red Artic challenges the widely held assumption that the Arctic is headed for strategic meltdown, emerging as a theater for a literal (new) Cold War between Russia and the West.
Buchanan explains that Putin’s Arctic strategy relies heavily upon international cooperation with foreign energy firms and injections of foreign capital: conflict will be bad for business. Russia needs a “low tension” environment to deliver on Russia’s critical economic interests.
Red Arctic charts Arctic strategy under Putin from how it is formulated, what drives it, and where it’s going. In cautioning against assumptions of expansionist intent in the region, Buchanan calls for informed judgment of the real drivers of Russian Arctic strategy.
Elizabeth Buchanan is Head of Navy Research at the Royal Australian Navy’s Sea Power Centre. Dr. Buchanan holds a PhD in Russian Arctic Strategy under Putin, specializes in polar geopolitics and is a Non-Resident Fellow of the Modern War Institute at West Point Military Academy. She is an Affiliate of the US Department of Defense’s George Marshall Center.
Buchanan (Modern War Institute West Point) observes that most analyses of conflict in the Arctic read like "Tom Clancy ... on steroids" (p. viii). Her mission is to put those stories where they belong: in the fiction section. Despite Russia's war in Ukraine and general antagonism to the West, the most remarkable story from the Arctic is how little the Ukrainian conflict has affected a long-standing policy of cooperation and commercial partnerships in the North. Russia needs a stable, orderly Arctic—a trend reflected from the Cold War to today. This geo-economic reality—the need for continued access to oil and natural gas—tempers and transcends Russia's ambitions elsewhere. Buchanan examines how Putin moved from the recentralization of control to the nationalization of resources to modernization to, finally, great power assertiveness without threatening the Arctic governance structure as manifested in international law and the role of the Arctic Council. She explores how this has played out in the Barents Sea and in negotiations between Norway and Russia. Though the war affects these issues—primarily through sanctions—it does not affect the central truth: in the long run, the Arctic is the future resource base of Russia. Conflict and cooperation will occur—just as it does everywhere else—but not military action. Recommended. Undergraduates through faculty; professionals; general readers.
[A] highly nuanced look into how Russia’s policies are developed, and how Moscow sees and pursues its interests in the Arctic. Buchanan’s book will likely be the benchmark against which other books on Russia in the Arctic are measured.
In the midst of a mounting crisis involving the West’s relationship with Russia, Elizabeth Buchanan offers a counter-intuitive reading of President’s Putin strategy towards the Arctic. For all the talk of GPS-jamming, border incursions, underwater sabotage, Russia actually requires a stable, orderly and co-operative environment in the ‘Red Arctic’. And this book explains how, why and when.
As a Cold War submariner, I found Elizabeth Buchanan’s Red Arctic refreshing and hopeful, because she provides evidence of Moscow’s historical penchant to opt for low tension in the Arctic. Should the West choose to confront Russia in the high north, it will invariably drive Russia into the arms of China, a self-proclaimed Near-Arctic Nation. Of the book’s three futures: Arctic Armageddon, Arctic Meltdown, and Arctic Entente, the latter seems the most preferable, but also the most difficult, considering the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Amongst the many casualties of the current conflict with Russia is nuance. Elizabeth Buchanan's ground-breaking study of Russian policy towards the Arctic challenges lazy stereotypes of the region becoming the focus for a new, very cold war, and instead highlights the degree to which Moscow wants - needs - to collaborate here. As such, this book is important now, and will continue to be so, regardless of Putin's fate.
Red Arctic is undoubtedly one of the most useful books ever written on Arctic security. It is essential reading for policymakers seeking to better understand how and why their governments can maintain constructive dialogue with the Russian Federation in order to preserve peace and prosperity in the Arctic region. You can be sure this book will prove a valuable reference for NWC students and faculty."
Buchanan’s book offers a nuanced picture of Russia’s Arctic policy that differs from the widely held Cold War hangover view. Better understanding each of the Arctic Five’s approach and goals is essential as the region assumes greater significance for both global security and commercial interests.
Red Arctic provides a comprehensive examination of Russia’s Arctic policies, particularly under President Vladimir Putin’s leadership. Rather than following the expected narrative of an imminent Arctic conflict or Russia’s pursuit of dominance, Elizabeth Buchanan skilfully asserts that Moscow’s strategy in the region is fundamentally one of cooperation. She compellingly underscores the significance of
cooperative efforts and demonstrates the Arctic’s importance for Russia’s strategic objectives and economic interests. In short, the book is well researched and provides a thought-provoking analysis of
Russia’s Arctic policy. Buchanan offers valuable insights into the motivations driving Russia’s engagement in the region, thereby challenging the prevailing narratives.
4/8/ 2023, Military War Institute podcast: