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Title: The Scramble for the Arctic: A Structural Realist Approach to the Geopolitics of the High North
Authors: Mowinckel, Edward
Advisors: Bass, Gary J.
Department: Princeton School of Public and International Affairs
Class Year: 2021
Abstract: The Arctic region is a new frontier for geopolitics. Melting sea ice, caused by climate change, is transforming the High North into an arena for great power competition as states look to benefit from the region’s increasing economic and geostrategic potential. The sudden surge in attention towards the region has caused two problems to occur. First, academics are unsure about which international relations theory provides the most all-encompassing explanation for today’s Arctic geopolitical state of play. Second, policymakers face uncertainty over how to craft long-term Arctic strategies for their respective nations. Through a historical and theoretical approach, this thesis argues in favor of the application of structural realism to the current geopolitical developments in the High North. First, it uses international relations theory to attempt to understand why states acted the way they did in the lead up to the Scramble for Africa – a historical case study with a multitude of similarities to today’s situation in the Arctic. Next, this thesis conducts an assessment of the current geopolitical state of play in the High North in order to evaluate whether the school of thought most applicable to the Scramble for Africa is also the school of thought most applicable to the Arctic. In light of the above-stated historical and theoretical analysis, this thesis presents the following findings: (1) Structural realism allows for a complete understanding of why states acted the way they did in the lead up to the Scramble for Africa. (2) Structural realist principles underpin the motivations for the Arctic strategies pursued by major regional powers today. Therefore, by extension of findings (1) and (2), structural realism allows for an all-encompassing understanding of the current geopolitical situation in the Arctic region. The thesis concludes by using a structural realist framework to generate two forecasting models predicting the state of the Arctic’s international system by the year 2035: one offensive structural realist model, detailing Russian hegemony, and one defensive structural realist model, detailing an East-West stalemate.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 1929-2021

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