Controlling the Northern Seas: The Influence of Exclusive Economic Zones on the Development of Norwegian, Danish, and Canadian Naval Forces

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The military challenge of climate change in the Arctic is often centered upon resource access within Arctic states' Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). There is thus a need to understand how those states' naval forces have responded to EEZ creation during the Cold War and their consequences through the present day. Examining the navies of Norway, Denmark, and Canada, this dissertation asks how the EEZ directly and indirectly affected their force structures and sea control operations and whether smaller navies consistently differ from larger one, which tackles the dearth of literature on smaller navies and peacetime naval operations. This dissertation finds that while all three Arctic states created and exploited the 200 NM zones, only Norway developed notably increased constabulary seapower inputs for controlling its blue water offshore area. For Denmark, its colonial territories in the North Atlantic meant its navy already had the constabulary fleet and organizational infrastructure necessary to control its EEZ even as its warfighting fleet focused on Baltic operations. Meanwhile, Canada could depend on its pre-existing blue water warfighting fleet to serve as ad hoc constabulary platforms for legally-endowed civilian fisheries officers. Despite these differences in each country’s force structures, the actual operations of all three countries’ navies would converge in the post-Cold War era, which called for overseas expeditionary missions in accordance with alliance interests. For the two smaller navies of Norway and Denmark, such missions were carried out with the same constabulary forces originally designed for EEZ concerns as they were the ones with the necessary blue water characteristics. In contrast, Canada already had a fleet of naval vessels that were suitable for such expeditionary operations due to its focus on blue water antisubmarine warfare. By the early 2010s, all three countries would have the necessary warfighting assets to operate in expeditionary roles, though only Canada would have the numbers required to do so on a continuous basis. However, rising geopolitical tensions and climate change’s effect on increasing activity in and around these countries’ EEZs is leading to a convergence of warfighting and constabulary requirements in these northern seas close to home.
maritime security, UNCLOS, Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ, Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Danish Navy, Royal Norwegian Navy, seapower, sea power, naval strategy, maritime strategy, NATO, Arctic, climate change, Cold War, navies, coast guard, sjøforsvaret, søværnet, small navies, sea control, offshore patrol vessels, North Atlantic, Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland
Choi, T. H. -T. (2022). Controlling the northern seas: the influence of exclusive economic zones on the development of Norwegian, Danish, and Canadian Naval Forces (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from