Nov. 20, 2020

UCalgary Political Science Congratulates: Christopher Verklan!

2019-20 Best Undergraduate Paper Prize! Photo Credit: Tim Choi
C. Verklan
Photo Credit: Tim Choi Tim Choi

Best Undergraduate Paper is awarded for the best student paper that advances the study of politics. Open to all students in a 400 or 500-level course in Political Science at the University of Calgary.


Christopher Verklan’s paper was written for POLI 523 Canada & the Circumpolar World and nominated by Dr. Rob Huebert.


Dr. Rob Huebert, tell us a bit about what made Christopher Verklan’s paper stand out to you?

Chris Verklan’s paper “Continuing the Cold War in the Arctic: A Case against ‘Arctic Exceptionalism’” was a sophisticated and nuanced examination of the developing Arctic security environment. Mr. Verklan provided an extremely well researched argument against much of the conventional wisdom on this subject. He demonstrated tremendous intellectual daring in challenging the view that the Arctic is a region of “exceptional peace and cooperation.” His is not a popular position, but he backed it up with excellent research and logic to ultimately demonstrate that the power politics of the Arctic region never really ended and the growing competition in the region is only a reflection of that reality. Overall, a brave and extremely well written paper, deserving of its award.

Christopher Verklan

Christopher Verklan, can you give us a brief description of its main findings or arguments?

My paper examines geopolitical developments in the Arctic since the end of the Second World War, and argues that security interests have—and still continue to—drive strategic competition in the region. In doing so, this paper argues against the notion of “Arctic exceptionalism” that has dominated academic literature following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which characterizes the region as an apolitical space of functional co-operation and peaceful co-existence. Instead, this paper underlines the security interests of littoral Arctic states being pursued through diplomatic means, under the guise of peaceful co-existence and functional co-operation. Accordingly, this leads the paper to conclude that the narrative of Arctic exceptionalism fails to accurately account for the competitive aspects of the region, and especially so after the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia.

What are you doing now?

I am currently undertaking my Master’s in Strategic Studies at the Centre for Military, Strategic and Security Studies at the University of Calgary. As part of my thesis project, I intend to examine implications of increasing Russian military activity and Chinese interest in the Arctic, and its impacts on Canadian defence policy. In particular, my thesis will analyze the ways in which Canada should utilize its membership in international defence organizations to meet the emerging challenges in the Arctic security environment in the coming decades.


Congratulations to Christopher Verklan on the 2019–20 Best Undergraduate Paper Prize!


To find out more about our paper prizes and past prize winners, see: Political Science Department Scholarships and Awards


Follow Christopher Verklan on Twitter at @CVerklan