North Atlantic Treaty Organization

YMGE 2018

Letter from the Director

Dear Delegates,

I am honored to welcome you to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for Yale Model Government Europe 2018. My name is Aki Dhadda and I am a sophomore in Trumbull College, one of Yale’s fourteen residential colleges. Within the Yale International Relations Association I am a member of the competitive Model UN team, Director-General of Committees for our high school conference YMUN, and a chair for Yale Model Government in Budapest. Outside of YIRA, I can be found giving campus tours or science tours, tutoring students, or hopelessly studying chemistry.

Our committee will discuss one of the most pressing, and under-addressed, topics of the 21st century: militarization of the Arctic. The Arctic region presents potential in the form of new shipping lanes and natural resources. As a result, there are many nations vying for control of the region. This will push you to understand the priorities of your country and protect geopolitical interests. Most of all, I encourage all delegates to think about the role NATO should have in tackling this issue.


Aki Dhadda

Committee History

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded on April 4, 1949, in Washington, D.C. The founding members of NATO were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Iceland, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Italy. Post World War II, the United States began to view financial stability in Europe as a significant factor preventing the spread of communism in the region. The United States entry into NATO is also significant as it marks a shift from the country’s previous foreign policy. From the days of President George Washington, the United States had remained committed to isolationism. Despite participation in the World Wars and international economic support through the Marshall Plan and the European Recovery Program, the founding of NATO pushed the United States away from the isolationism generally maintained during interwar periods. NATO created a formal and long-lasting military alliance during a time of peace, changing the landscape of United States foreign policy forever.

Figure 1: NATO membership over time.

Tensions Leading to Creation of NATO

NATO was founded as a response to perceived Soviet aggression. From 1945 to 1948, the Soviet Union used the Salami Tactics to politically control Eastern Europe in order to create an anti-fascist government where only the communist core remains, allowing Moscow trained individuals to take over. This occurred in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. Poland’s “free elections” in 1947 were not actually free; communists deported 50,000 people to Siberia prior to elections and one million voters were taken off the electoral register. Western powers saw this as a breach of the Yalta agreements, and President Truman insisted that the Polish government be reorganized. On the other hand, Soviets saw this as a victory over western expansion. Stalin felt that the United States had spheres of influence in Japan and Western Europe, Britain had its in Greece and Western Europe, so the Soviet Union should be given spheres of influence in Eastern Europe.

In 1946, Stalin gave a speech to voters, placing the blame of the past two world wars on capitalist ideology and reasserting Marxist-Leninist thought. The Soviet government soon announced that it would not participate in IMF and the World Bank. The United States took offense and this speech was a factor that led to the later long telegram. This speech was perceived by many as the declaration of the Cold War. In fact, Supreme Justice William O. Douglas described it as “declaration of World War III.” Stalin’s speech contributed to ‘The Long Telegram’ in 1947. US diplomat in Moscow, George Kennan sent a telegram to the State department, stating that Moscow was more responsive to “logic of force” than “logic of reasoning. The telegram resulted in the development of the US policy of containment that continued throughout the Cold War.

After his resignation as Prime Minister, Winston Churchill came to the United States and gave the famous ‘Iron Curtain’ Speech on March, 1946 in Westminster College. Churchill used the phrase ‘Iron Curtain’ to describe the divide between Western powers and the area controlled by the Soviet Union as a response to Soviet Expansion in Eastern Europe. The speech has a hostile tone towards Soviets, increasing tensions between Western Powers and the Soviet Union. In the speech, Churchill also cedes power to the United States.

Figure 2: Winston Churchill delivering the Iron Curtain Speech in 1946.

The shift in global power is also marked by the 1947 ruman Doctrine, a speech to Congress presenting the policy of containment. The Truman Doctrine positions the United States as the “defender of the free world” and stated that the United States has the obligation to “support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” According to Historian Walter LeFeber, “The Truman Doctrine was a milestone in American History … The doctrine became an ideological shield. From 1947 on, any threats to that Western system could be explained as Communist-inspired, not as problems which arose from difficulties within the system itself.”

The 1947-1948 Marshall plan was significant in promoting diplomatic interactions that led to the formation of NATO via a large scale provision of economic aid to Europe. The Marshall Plan also encouraged shared interests and cooperation between the United States and Europe and caused many democratic Western European nations to rely on support from the United States. The Soviet Union responded with the creation of the Cominform (1947) and the Comecon (1949). Cominform, the International Communist Information Bureau was created to exchange information between Communist countries and was composed of every communist country at the time. Cominform was mostly a tool for Stalin to keep Communist parties in line with directives from Moscow. Cominform included the communist of Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Yugoslavia, Romania, Italy, and the USSR. Comecon, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, was created to prevent communist countries and countries from the Eastern Bloc from accepting Western aid through the Marshall plan.

The Marshall Plan, as well as Cominform and Comecon, divided the globe economically. In 1949, the creation of NATO took this political divide one step further and split the world militarily. NATO relied on the principle of collective security and the goals of the organization were essentially to prevent the Soviet Union from gaining power, tie the United States to Western Europe, and prevent Germany from rising in power again.

Relevance of NATO During the Cold War

The North Atlantic Treaty includes an agreement that if a NATO country is attacked, other member states would assist to restore security. Article Five of the treaty states that “an armed attack against one or more of them … shall be considered an attack against them all,” and that following such an attack, each ally would take “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force” in response.  Additionally, though required to respond NATO countries do not necessarily have to respond militarily. Articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty had purposes outside response to attack. Article 2 is centered on engaging in non-military cooperation, while Article 3 discusses cooperation as it pertains to military preparedness.

After the creation of NATO, many countries also went through standardization of terminology, procedures, and technology. This frequently resulted in European countries adopting United States practices. It is important to remember the relevance of European countries because while the Cold War is traditionally considered a rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, a broader perspective reveals the rivalry of two larger organizations: NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact, created in 1955, was a direct response to the newly minted joint security apparatus in Western Europe and the inclusion of West Germany in NATO. The Warsaw Pact’s article provisions are very similar to those of the North Atlantic Treaty.

The NATO member states response to the establishment of the Warsaw Pact was to adopt a policy of “massive retaliation”. The policy essentially meant that if the Soviet Union was ever to attack, NATO would response with nuclear weapons. The goal of “massive retaliation” was to deter any nation from using nuclear powers. A secondary benefit of this policy was that it allowed NATO countries to collaborate more economically and politically, rather than primarily militarily.

The stability that resulted from NATO’s policy of “massive retaliation” was briefly shaken by the tensions that resulted from the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. For the most part though, the relationship between NATO and Warsaw Pact nations reached a status quo. During this period, the Soviet Union demonstrated a preference for short-term action that resulted in control over other nations rather than long term reform. This was evidenced in the invasion of Czechoslovakia (1968), the invasion of Hungary, or military repression in Berlin. At the same time, President Kennedy’s strategy of “flexible response” represented a clear departure from the policy“massive retaliation” of the past. “Flexible response” reaffirmed the defensive positioning established in “massive retaliation” without the threat of nuclear exchange. The policy stated that in the face of conflict, NATO would offer various military responses short of a nuclear exchange.

Collapse of Soviet Union and Relevance in the Twenty First Century

In late 1989, civil and political public movements and discontent pushed various Communist governments in the Warsaw Pact out of power and the communist government in the Soviet Union began to collapse. Communist governments were also toppled in Albania, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and Bulgaria. The Warsaw Pact was formally disbanded and the Soviet Union was disestablished in 1991. The deterioration of NATO’s main adversary led to a period of re-evaluation. According to NATO, the organization survived because its “two other original if unspoken mandates still held,” to deter militant nationalism and provide security in Europe as means to promote democracy. In order to achieve this goal, NATO began to reach out to former Warsaw Pact states and expanded dialogue with non-member states in various regions of the world.  

Topic: Disputes over the Arctic

As this is a new delegate committee, we will be focusing our energy on one topic: disputes over the arctic. Today, the Arctic is a region that demands international attention. Global warming quite literally paved the path for new and lucrative shipping lanes through the ice and provides potential for increased natural resources. Already, many countries have shown differing perspectives on how to handle the future of the region.

Despite the founding tension between the Soviet Union and NATO, the Arctic region is an area where NATO and Russia can work together. At the same time, Russia has been militarizing the Arctic and has remained committed to protecting Russian geopolitical interests in the region. Norway has promoted the role of NATO in the arctic and both military and civilian officials in the nation want NATO to play a more significant role in the Arctic. On the other hand, Canada has clearly stated that it does not want NATO to be involved in the Arctic. In addition to the different opinions of relevant countries, four of the five Arctic littoral countries are NATO member states — NATO cannot afford to ignore this issue.

Topic History

UNCLOS and Defining the Arctic

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) is an international agreement that defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s ocean. UNCLOS was developed over the twentieth century, but significant implementation did not occur until the 1990s. 167 countries and the European Union have joined this convention. Unlike what the name might suggest, the UN has no direct operational role in the implementation of the convection. This role is primarily overseen by the International Maritime Organization, the International Whaling Commission, and the International Seabed Authority. The Treaty came into force in 1994. UNCLOS defines various maritime zones as under the responsibility of a sovereign coastal state or as beyond national jurisdiction. These maritime zones include internal waters, territorial seas, archipelagic waters, contiguous zones, exclusive economic zones, continental shelves, high seas, and the area.

When considering the territorial disputes in the Arctic, a significant maritime zone is continental shelves. UNCLOS Article 76 defines a continental shelf as:

“The continental shelf of a coastal State comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance.”

States that have jurisdiction over continental shelves are allowed to explore and exploit natural resources from them. Additionally, states that do not have jurisdiction over continental shelves are not allowed to exploit these resources – even if the state that has jurisdiction does not.

Another significant terminology defined in UNCLOS is exclusive economic zone (EEZ). According to Article 55 of UNCLOS,

“The exclusive economic zone is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea, subject to the specific legal regime established in this Part, under which the rights and jurisdiction of the coastal State and the rights and freedoms of other States are governed by the relevant provisions of this Convention.”

Both of these definitions have similarities, but they differ in area (EEZs are  max 200 nautical miles from baselines and continental shelves are max 350 nautical miles) and use of living species (EEZs permit use and continental shelves do not). More significantly, both EEZs and continental shelves provide nations with rights to exploration and exploitation. All land, internal waters, territorial seas, and EEZs in the Arctic region are under the jurisdiction of one of the Arctic coastal states: Canada, Norway, Russia, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, and the United States.

Figure 3: Diagram description of different maritime zones defined in UNCLOS.

After ratifying UNCLOS, nations have a ten-year period to make claims on continental shelves or EEZs. If the claim is validated, the nation is provided exclusive rights to the resources, as outlined in the treaty definitions above. Before making claims, nations are required to collect and analyze data that describe the characteristics of the seabed and sub-sea floor, particularly through bathymetric data and seismic reflection data. Currently, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark have filed claims. The United States has yet to ratify the treaty.

The Allure of the Arctic

An understanding of the territorial divisions of Arctic land and waters, raises the question why do countries want to claim this area?

Figure 4: Diagram depicting resource distribution of oil and gas in the Arctic Region.

The Arctic region is stocked with many natural resources from oil, gas, minerals, and reserves of fish. In fact, the United States estimates that a significant proportion of the Earth’s untapped petroleum are stored in the Arctic seabed — specifically about 15 percent of remaining oil, 30 percent of natural gas, and 20 percent of liquefied natural gas.

Figure 5: Diagram predicting the change in ice thickness in the Arctic Region over time.

Due to global warming, the amount of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean has experienced sharp declines since the 1980s. These conditions present future benefits as they offer an opening for shipping companies. A new trade route through the Arctic would potentially be a faster and more direct path from Asian and European ports to Eastern North America. While there is currently little cargo shipped through the Arctic region, this may change in the near future. Due to the melting ice and improved ship technology, there is increased potential for routes to become navigable. According to researchers at the University of Reading in Britain, these additional routes may decrease voyage time to less than three weeks. As a result, in the coming years, Arctic shipping may become more attractive than the conventional southern routes.

Territorial Claims in the Arctic

As previously stated, the Arctic consists of land, internal waters, territorial seas, exclusive economic zones, and high seas. Based on current regulations stipulated in UNCLOS, four of the eight Arctic coastal states have made claims on seabed — Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Russia. Currently, major disputes are centered on which passages constitute international seaways and rights to passage. There are particular disputes over Hans Island, Beaufort Sea, and the Northwest Passage.

Figure 6: Diagram description of various Arctic territorial claims.

Hans Island is a small uninhabited island in the Nares strait. After negotiations between Canada and Denmark, a treaty was ratified in 1973 regarding the coordinates of the continental shelf. However, the treaty did not draw borders over an 875-meter distance, including Hans Island. As a result, Hans Island has been the center of disputes between the two nations. Danish flags were placed on Hans Island at various time points (1984, 1988, 1995, and 2003), causing the Canadian government to protest. Canada has long claimed that Hans Island fell in Canadian territory on the basis of borders drawn in maps from 1967. More recent imagery in 2007 has demonstrated that this border goes directly through the island. Despite negotiations between the two governments in 2012, the dispute over Hans Island has not been resolved.

Figure 7: Map of Greenland and Canada demonstrating the location of Hans Island.

A last significant border dispute is that of the Northwest Passage. Similar to the Beaufort Sea, the Northwest Passage represents a dispute between the United States and Canada. The United States sees the Northwest Passage as international waters, while Canada sees the passage as internal Canadian waters. While the Northwest Passage had previously been almost impenetrable, ice melting has opened it up more. A 1988 agreement stated that the United States would always ask permission before sending icebreakers through the passage and that Canada would always grant the permission. This was a solution to the dispute for a long time. Now, the melted ice means that icebreakers are not the only vessels that can use the passage — cruise ships, cargo ships, and travelers can as well. The increased traffic will bring risks in the form of oil spills or collisions.A last significant border dispute is that of the Northwest Passage. Similar to the Beaufort Sea, the Northwest Passage represents a dispute between the United States and Canada. The United States sees the Northwest Passage as international waters, while Canada sees the passage as internal Canadian waters. While the Northwest Passage had previously been almost impenetrable, ice melting has opened it up more. A 1988 agreement stated that the United States would always ask permission before sending icebreakers through the passage and that Canada would always grant the permission. This was a solution to the dispute for a long time. Now, the melted ice means that icebreakers are not the only vessels that can use the passage — cruise ships, cargo ships, and travelers can as well. The increased traffic will bring risks in the form of oil spills or collisions.

Another unresolved border dispute is centered on a small slice of the Beaufort Sea. This area is in between the Canadian territory of Yukon and Alaska (the United States’ state). According to Canada the border is along the 141 meridian west at a distance of 200 nmi, while the United States believes the border is perpendicular to the coast at a distance of 200 nmi. This has resulted in an undefined wedge shaped area. Canada’s position is supported by the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1825) that set the boundary between the United Kingdom and the Russian Empire. As Canada is Great Britain’s successor in this treaty, Canada believes the treaty extends to the current border between the US and Canada. The United States believes the boundary is based on equidistance between the two nations. This dispute is magnified by the potential resources that exist in this region, including oil and gas.

A last significant border dispute is that of the Northwest Passage. Similar to the Beaufort Sea, the Northwest Passage represents a dispute between the United States and Canada. The United States sees the Northwest Passage as international waters, while Canada sees the passage as internal Canadian waters. While the Northwest Passage had previously been almost impenetrable, ice melting has opened it up more. A 1988 agreement stated that the United States would always ask permission before sending icebreakers through the passage and that Canada would always grant the permission. This was a solution to the dispute for a long time. Now, the melted ice means that icebreakers are not the only vessels that can use the passage — cruise ships, cargo ships, and travelers can as well. The increased traffic will bring risks in the form of oil spills or collisions.

Multilateral Relations Concerning the Arctic

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum that discusses issues faced by governments with land in the Arctic region and the indigenous people of the Arctic. The eight member countries are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. The council formed as part of the 1996 Ottawa Declaration. The council is supposed to act as a forum for promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction between the Arctic States. The council places emphasis on environmental protection, climate change, oil and gas resources, and shipping.

Despite the commitment to discussing Arctic specific issues, the Arctic Council rarely discusses security issues. This may be because five of the eight nations are also NATO members, meaning they are committed to mutual military assistance. This means that despite disputes between any two NATO member states (such as the between Canada and the United States over the Beaufort Sea), the NATO partners coordinate their strategies. Additionally, the Arctic Council is prohibited from discussing military security in the Arctic. As a result, any military discussion is relegated to informal conversation and no substantive progress has been made.

Current Situation

The territorial disputes and the potential resources that exist in the Arctic region have led to increased militarization of the Arctic. Currently, there is an absence of a security framework in the Arctic. Russia has recently decided to rebuild a naval facility in the Arctic to protect their influence and claims over passages and resources.

Figure 8: Map of Russia’s militarization of the Arctic through bases in the region.

Canada has responded to Russian territorial claims through military exercises in the region. In recent years, Russia unveiled a new Arctic command, four new Arctic brigade combat teams, 14 new operational airfields, 16 deepwater ports, and 40 icebreakers with an additional 11 in development. In comparison, the United States has one working icebreaker for the Arctic — its only other one is broken. Many of the disputes within the Arctic are within various NATO member states, but Russia’s buildup of military resources cause the other nations to resolve the disputes and work together. On the other hand, the other disputes may provide Russia with enough leeway to claim more control over the region.

Bloc Positions

Remember, as Russia is not a NATO member state, the voice of this nation will not be directly voiced during the course of the conference. Therefore, the other countries have the ability to work together and address the threat of Russian militarization, discuss territorial disputes between various NATO member states, or a combination of the two. Overall, decisions need to be made regarding divisions within the the Arctic region, regarding the distribution of resources and international waterways, and regarding security plans for the region.

The NATO member states most implicated in this discussion are the United States, Denmark, Norway, and Canada. Other NATO nations will discuss the issue from the perspective of protecting the military alliance and addressing the actions taken by Russia.

The United States is a signatory on UNCLOS, but has yet to ratify the document because it was deemed unfavorable economically. As a result, the United States has not yet filed any claims regarding EEZs. At the same time, the United States has staked interests in the future of the region, particularly due to concerns about Russian military buildup and disputes over the Northwest Passage and the Beaufort Sea.

Denmark ratified UNCLOS in 2004. In 2014, Denmark claimed an area from Greenland to the North Pole to the Russian EEZ. As the Danish claim extends into Russia’s sector, it may be a source of contention in future discussions.

Canada ratified UNCLOS in 2003 and announced that it would file a claim that includes the North Pole. Canada has responded strongly to Russian military actions in the Arctic region, with the foreign minister Peter MacKay even referring to them as “posturing”. Canada is also part of disputes with the United States in the Northwest Passage and Beaufort Sea.

Norway ratified UNCLOS in 1996 and filed a claim that extended the Norwegian seabed claim into other areas of the Atlantic and the Arctic. Following a 40 year dispute, Norway and Russia reached an agreement on the Barents Sea.

Questions to Consider

  1. Should the international community continue to hold up definitions of maritime areas from the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas in the Arctic region? Who should be monitoring Arctic territorial disputes between two nations
  2. What is the role of NATO in settling disputes between member states and Russia regarding the militarization of the Arctic? Will the Cold War tensions that led to the creation of NATO be reinvigorated by territorial disputes in the Arctic?
  3. Should nations have jurisdiction over potential international trade routes? What countries should be able to profit from resources taken from undefined territories? If a nation does not exploit the resources in their territory, should the resources be accessible to other nations?
  4. Should a security framework be established in the Arctic region? What would that framework look like? Who would oversee its implementation?

Sources for Further Research

To gain more information about the history of NATO and the tensions that existed during the Cold War era it may be helpful to read the Marshall Plan, George Kennan’s Long Telegram, Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech, President Truman’s Message to Congress, Stalin’s Speech to Voters, or the North Atlantic Treaty.

In order to further understand the jurisdiction and rights nations have over the Arctic regions delve deeper into the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas. Examine current news outlets (see examples in the references section) for updates on the state of territorial disputes and militarization within the Arctic region.


Act of April 3, 1948, European Recovery Act [Marshall Plan]; Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789-1996; General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives.

Beeler, Carolyn. “Who Controls the Northwest Passage? It's up for Debate.” Public Radio International, 4 Sept. 2017,

Bender, Jeremy. “2 Countries Have Been Fighting over an Uninhabited Island by Leaving Each Other Bottles of Alcohol for over 3 Decades.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 10 Jan. 2016,

Bender, Jeremy. “Militaries Know That The Arctic Is Melting - Here's How They're Taking Advantage.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 3 June 2014,

Convention on the Law of the Sea, Dec. 10, 1982, 1833 U.N.T.S. 397

“George Kennan's 'Long Telegram',” February 22, 1946, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, National Archives and Records Administration, Department of State Records (Record Group 59), Central Decimal File, 1945-1949, 861.00/2-2246; reprinted in US Department of State, ed., Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, Volume VI, Eastern Europe; The Soviet Union (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1969), 696-709.

Gramer, Robbie. “Here's What Russia's Military Build-Up in the Arctic Looks Like.” Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy, 25 Jan. 2017,

Larres, Klaus. "North Atlantic Treaty Organization." Encyclopedia of American Foreign Relations: Studies of the Principal Movements and Ideas (2002): 573-593.

Muller, James W. Churchill's "Iron Curtain" Speech Fifty Years Later. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999. Print.

Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Place of publication not identified: publisher not identified, 1950.

Pappas, Aris, and Mark Kramer. Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991: Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance : Soviet-East European Military Relations in Historical Perspective : Sources and Reassessments. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2009. Internet resource.

Patel, Jugal K., and Henry Fountain. “As Arctic Ice Vanishes, New Shipping Routes Open.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 May 2017,

President Truman's Message to Congress; March 12, 1947; Document 171; 80th Congress, 1st Session; Records of the United States House of Representatives; Record Group 233; National Archives.

Sharp, Greg. “An Old Problem, a New Opportunity: A Case for Solving the Beaufort Sea Boundary Dispute.” The Arctic Institute, 27 Oct. 2017,

Singh, Abhijit. “The Creeping Militarization of the Arctic.” The Diplomat, The Diplomat, 16 Oct. 2013,

Stalin, Joseph V. “Speech Delivered by J.V. Stalin at a Meeting of Voters of the Stalin Electoral Area of Moscow.” 9 Feb. 1946, Moscow.