University leads the way with unique High North Security project

Friday 27 January 2023

Academic experts, politicians and business leaders from across the UK and Europe gathered in St Andrews this week (Thursday 26 January) to take part in the Scottish Council of Global Affairs (SCGA) conference focusing on ‘High and Wider North Security’ following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The ongoing catastrophe in Ukraine, brought on by the Russian full-scale invasion of February 2022, has reshaped and sharpened many of the security questions facing Europe’s wider north – an area which runs east to west from European Russia through Scandinavia to the United Kingdom, terminating around Greenland, and from north to south from the North Pole to the southern land coasts of the Baltic Sea.

In response, SCGA has put together a team of academics and practitioners from across the UK and leading research institutes in Finland, Sweden, and Norway to take forward a project, led by the University of St Andrews, that is the first in the world to lay out the challenges the war presents to this crucial region.

The conference, led by SCGA Co-director Professor Phillips O’Brien, Head of the School of International Relations and Chair of Strategic Studies at the University of St Andrews, looked specifically at how European security has changed in the last year and the need for partners, especially those in northern Europe, to work together, particularly on defence and economic strategies.

The SCGA event brought together experts from academia, including Professor Caroline Kennedy-Pipe, Professor of International Security at Loughborough University, who talked about increasing knowledge of current thinking on the Arctic post Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Conference delegates also heard from Minna Ålander, a research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, who observed the High North project was an important initiative looking to establish further connections between Scotland and Nordic countries at a time of great flux in European security.

Paal Sigurd Hilde, Associate Professor at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies, said it was important to look at things like business strategy and cultural perspectives, going beyond ‘hard-core’ security and International Relations perspectives.

In his address to the conference, Professor O’Brien explained how issues pertaining to governance of the ‘High North’ crosses many boundaries, from environment to sustainability through to how NATO will protect waters. He also said the University of St Andrews, notwithstanding its comparatively small size, is extremely well-placed in terms of expertise to host such a conference.

St Andrews is one of three Scottish universities involved in the establishment of the SCGA, a dynamic global affairs institute set up to provide a non-partisan hub for the sharing of Scotland’s world-leading expertise.

The Council has received backing from both Scottish and UK Government ministers as well as from across the political spectrum and wider civil society.

More information is available on the SCGA website.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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