Regional Order in the Arctic: Negotiated Exceptionalism


  • Heather Exner-Pirot
  • Robert W. Murray



Traditional theories of International Relations have thus far failed to explain the unusual degree of cooperation seen in the Arctic between Russia on the one hand, and the seven Western Arctic states led by the United States on the other.  Rather than witnessing a devolution into competition and conflict over strategic shipping routes and hydrocarbon resources, regional Arctic institutions have continued to grow in strength and number in the past several years, and transnational ties have deepened. This has prompted some observers to describe the Arctic as ‘exceptional’ – somehow immune to or isolated from global political competition.

This paper argues that the Arctic regional order is exceptional insofar as Arctic states and those states with involvement in the region have worked to negotiate an order and balance of power predicated on norms such as cooperation and multilateralism. The establishment of an Arctic international society has seen great powers and smaller powers come together to form an order aimed at promoting norms and institutions not seen elsewhere in the world. By using an English School approach to understand the Arctic, we contend that Arctic international society has been deliberately negotiated in a way that promotes cooperation between Arctic states. However this order can be disrupted if Arctic international society does not take conscious steps to maintain a strong institutional framework that protects Arctic internationalism.





Exner-Pirot, H., & Murray, R. W. (2017). Regional Order in the Arctic: Negotiated Exceptionalism. Politik, 20(3).