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Military Capabilities in the Arctic

Publisher: SIPRI
March, 2012
Climate change is making the Arctic region—and its expected natural resources—more accessible. Overlapping claims by the five Arctic littoral states—Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States—have led to fears of future conflict in the region.

In recent years all five countries have included increased protection of Arctic territories and claims in their defence policies. All five have also started to increase their military presences and capabilities in the Arctic region by acquiring Arctic-specific equipment, improving military infrastructure or increasing military forces.

While these changes are sometimes portrayed as significant military build-ups and potential threats to security, the five states are making only limited increases in their capabilities to project military power beyond their recognized national territories. However, the increase in military forces does give some reasons for concern, which military confidence-building measures might help to mitigate.


Siemon T. Wezeman is a Senior Researcher in the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme.