International Relations and Defence Committee
Our friends in the North: UK strategy towards the Arctic

1st Report of Session 2023-24 - published 29 November 2023 - HL Paper 8



Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Chapter 1: The case for scrutinising the UK’s Arctic strategy

Figure 1: Map providing a circumpolar view of the Arctic and the UK’s position

Box 1: Defining the Arctic

Environmental change and Arctic “opening”

The changing geopolitics of the Arctic

Impacts on regional governance

The UK has an important role to play in the Arctic

Our inquiry

Chapter 2: The Russia challenge and deterrence in the Arctic

The military challenge

Figure 2: Russian Arctic military infrastructure

The impact of the war in Ukraine

Russian threat perception in the Arctic

The potential for conflict with Russia in the Arctic

Accidental escalation

Sub-threshold activity in the Arctic and High North

Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession

UK capabilities and defence contribution in the High North

Box 2: UK participation in Arctic security groupings

Impact of geopolitical tensions on indigenous communities

Chapter 3: The internationalisation of the Arctic

The role of China

China’s growing interest in the Arctic

Chinese interest in shipping routes

Western push-back

The importance of the Sino-Russian relationship

Other East Asian countries with Arctic interests

India—an emergent power with an Arctic strategy

Chapter 4: Prospects and impacts of growing economic activity in the Arctic

Shipping in the Arctic

Figure 3: Arctic EEZs and international waters of the central Arctic Ocean

Prospects for increased commercial fishing

Box 3: Management of fish stocks

Cruise tourism—a growing industry

Prospects for transit shipping in the Arctic

Figure 4: Arctic transit sea routes

Destination shipping will become more important

The risks of greater maritime activity

Offshore oil and gas development



Impact on indigenous communities

The UK’s economic footprint

Chapter 5: The future of co-operation and governance in the Arctic

The Arctic Council

Box 5: The Arctic Council

The future of the Arctic Council

Arctic governance under strain

Forms of UK co-operation in the Arctic

Polar research: the UK’s main gateway to the Arctic

The UK’s participation in Arctic security fora

UK support for the rights of Arctic indigenous peoples

Assessing UK influence in the Arctic

Appendix 1: List of Members and declarations of interest

Appendix 2: List of witnesses

Appendix 3: Call for evidence

Appendix 4: Treaties and conventions relevant to the Arctic to which the UK is Party

Appendix 5: UK participation in Arctic Council Working Group projects

Appendix 6: List of abbreviations

Evidence is published online at and available for inspection at the Parliamentary Archives (020 7219 3074).

Q in footnotes refers to a question in oral evidence.

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