The Arctic region was ‘inaccessible’ until the end of the 20th century due to the layers of thick ice. Thus, there were less territorial disputes until the beginning of the (21st) century. However, with the ice caps melting rapidly, access to the Arctic oil and gas reserves, which is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars, will become easier – a prediction that has already sparked a rush for ownership.
The region, which is surrounded by the landmasses of Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Russia, Norway and the US, is increasingly catching regional attention and these five Arctic countries are in rush to exploit the energy resources from the region. Such circumstances have given rise to plenty of disputes among the aforementioned five countries.
In the prevailing scenario, all the five Arctic countries have been moving towards militarizing the region in order to acquire each of their respective interests. Military exercises, opening military base & outposts, deployments of sophisticated ships, aircrafts and other maritime assets to assist & guard exploratory drilling purposes – all these have been taking place centering the region.
The current militarization efforts in the region is likely to increase with almost all the regional countries working to further increase their military deployments and exercises in the region, and there appears little hope and opportunity for any diplomatic resolution (or political agreement) regarding the disputes. It can be well presumed that without political agreement, the current non-hostile debate over the Arctic could turn into a violent confrontation.
If the disputes over the control of the Arctic resources are not resolved quickly, it could turn into a larger military conflict that would not just involve the Arctic countries, but would also drag a larger part of the region into this conflict, leading to a regionwide war.