Russia, which accounts for half of the Arctic region, is one of eight nations that make up the Arctic Council (the others are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and United States), along with representatives of six Indigenous Peoples' organisations. During the Cold War the Arctic was a heavily militarised region and a focus for competing East-West strategies. However, former Soviet President Gorbachev's 1987 speech in which he called for a "zone of peace" to be created in the Arctic, set the tone for a new era of cooperation and the founding of the Arctic Council about a decade later. Since then larger geopolitical questions have tended to be overlooked by the Council.
While the crisis between Russia and Ukraine is creating political fault lines that may yet spill over into the Arctic Council, for now at least, it seems to be business as usual with Russia participating at the eight-country Council meeting currently taking place in Canada. But what are the longer terms prospects for the Council and the region itself? And is the Crimea crisis forcing NATO to rethink Arctic defence? For further details, see the attached pdf briefng paper.