Publication details

Cooperation in the Cold: The Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement. In: Weber, Joachim F. (Hg.): Handbook on Geopolitics and Security in the Arctic. Cham: Springer Nature, 273-289.

Book chapter

Author(s): Lambach, Daniel
Year of publication: 2020

Abstract: Arctic states cooperate on many issues in the region. Accounts of this behavior often take a rationalist approach where cooperation is explained by compatible national interests, interdependence, the work of regional institutions or the ‘low politics’ nature of those issues. These explanations are useful but this paper argues that such a discussion should also include the material properties of the Arctic space and human activities therein. I use a case study of the Arctic Search and Rescue (SAR) Agreement to illustrate this point. Negotiations towards the SAR Agreement went with noticeable smoothness and speed from 2009 to the signing in 2011. Since then, implementation has proceeded apace, with little disruption by deteriorating relations between Russia and the West in the post-Crimea phase. This highlights an unusual confluence of interests among state parties which were at least partly determined by the environmental and economic properties of the Arctic. Given the very limited SAR infrastructure in a vast, climatically harsh area which was projected to see a rapid increase in shipping and resource access, there was huge pressure on states to quickly agree on a cooperative framework so as not to impede the commercial exploitation of this economically underdeveloped region.

Research area: Research Area 2: The Dynamics of Normative Orders: Rupture, Change, Continuity
Research project:
Subject(s): political science
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