the Arctic as frontier and ‘laboratory’ of international intelligence collection

Dr Pierluigi Salvati1

1University Of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy

An old Inuit saying goes: «Only when the ice breaks will you truly know who is your friend and who is your enemy».

The Arctic has been warming faster than anywhere else on the planet: it is estimated that by 2020, about 50% of the ice pack will be dissolved, and between 2030 and 2050 the Arctic summers will be characterized by the total absence of ice. Therefore, the area will be soon revealing an estimated $17.2 trillion amount of fossil fuel resources trapped for eons, with further and easier access to the navigation routes.

For these reasons, the Arctic has become the crossroad of international espionage and the new frontier of the global confrontation between traditional (Russia, the U.S., Canada, Norway, Denmark) and new (the E.U., China) “polar” actors.

The present paper will start from the analysis of the legal regime applicable to the activities of intelligence collection in the Arctic, to be mainly found in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), lacking an ‘Arctic Treaty’ ad modum of Antarctica. Then it will dwell on the recent developments mainly due to the increasing activism of new subjects that could lead to a substantial change.


JSD in International Law and Cultore della Materia (Honorary Fellow) at the University of Naples Federico II, my research topics mainly focus on intelligence collection and international law, cyber election meddling and principle of non-intervention.

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