Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2012

The Arctic policies of Canada and the United States: domestic motives and international context

Kristofer Bergh

July 2012

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute


The melting polar ice creates a fundamentally new geopolitical situation in the Arctic that warrants attention at both national and international levels. The ability and willingness of Canada and the United States to address the mix of social, economic and military challenges facing the region will be dependent on a range of domestic conditions and processes. While the USA is just waking up to these changes, Canada has made the Arctic a top political priority. This paper explores the domestic motives for the Arctic policies of Canada and the USA and their impacts on the two countries’ foreign policies. It describes the Arctic foreign policies of the two states, outlines the complex relationship between domestic politics and Arctic foreign policy in each country and discusses the ways in which the two countries' Arctic policies interact in the international political and diplomatic arenas.