Renewed tensions between Russia and the West have fueled speculation that Moscow’s apparent designs on the Arctic region could help stimulate a new cold war. Vladimir Putin’s openly nationalistic ambitions, as demonstrated most vividly with his seizure of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, might seem to justify such concerns.
This book by a noted expert shifts the debate over Russia’s strategy from what Moscow could do in the Arctic to the realities of what Putin’s Russia likely will do. Buchanan challenges the widely held assumption that the Arctic is emerging as one of the most important strategic theaters in a potentially dangerous new cold war between Russia and the West. In fact, she explains that Putin’s Arctic aspirations rely heavily upon continued international cooperation via commercial partnerships with Western energy firms and Eastern injections of capital—all of which could be at risk in a new cold war.
Three main themes are intertwined throughout the book: Russian Arctic interests; Putin’s vision to regain great power status; and the emerging narrative of a new cold war in the Arctic. Weaved together, they dovetail nicely to present a qualitative assessment of Russian Arctic strategy devoid of ideological biases. The unique departure for the book is that it makes the case that Russia’s renewed great power ambitions under Putin are not the only explanation for Russian Arctic strategy.
By exploring the broader context of Putin’s actions, the book fills a gap in literature. It will be of interest both to specialists and to anyone interested in relations between Russia and the West as well as the numerous questions about how the Arctic region will be exploited—and who will do the exploiting.
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.
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."