OSW Report

NATO’s polar quartet

The US, Canada, Denmark and Norway in the Arctic
Cover of the report

The Arctic is the part of the world that has been most severely affected by climate change. The Arctic Ocean is heating up, new opportunities for shipping and resource extraction are emerging, and international cooperation in the polar areas is gradually giving way to competition: icebreakers, military infrastructure and submarine patrols are returning to the north. The Arctic has been impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sweden’s and Finland’s drift towards NATO, as well as China’s aspirations. It is therefore worth taking a closer look at the engagement of the US, Canada, Denmark/Greenland and Norway in the circumpolar area, as they are the only NATO members that are also Arctic Ocean coastal states. The report looks at their activity in this region from the political, economic and military perspectives. The US sees this space proactively, through the prism of its rivalry with Russia and China, while Canada takes an inward view, with a focus on protecting its own sovereignty. Denmark nurtures its union with Greenland, without which it would have no presence in the Arctic. For Norway, the High North is a source of natural resources and the first line of defence against a possible Russian attack.