Arctic governance: Understanding the geopolitics of commercial shipping via the Northern Sea Route
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The purpose of this study is to examine the implications of the development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) with regard to governance in the Arctic. This topic is of importance as Arctic waters are getting bluer, more accessible, exploitable and attractive to investors, both public and private. Thus, numerous states and the international shipping industry are increasingly eyeing the NSR as an alternative trade route between Asia and Europe. However, the Arctic region and the NSR waters' sovereignty remain unclear. Moreover, an increased density of international merchant vessels in the Arctic Ocean, a military reasserted Russia and the growing influence of China in international politics and trade suggest that the geopolitics of the Arctic may be challenged by the NSR. In this thesis, I have analysed the NSR's effect on Arctic governance by applying classic theories of International Relations and illuminating the research question with data from expert interviews and a comprehensive document base. The findings indicate that liberalist values triumph realism, and that the NSR therefore does not have the potential to interrupt the current institutionalised and peaceful international political environment of the Arctic. Conversely, there is a possibility that conflicts in other parts of the world may disrupt the prosperity of international shipping via the NSR due to spillover effects.