The world that exits the Great Quarantine will be one of deep distrust and growing disintegration of international systems and structures. It will thus be in desperate need of institutional renovation and, yes, invention – to repair relationships across borders, spur economic growth, and avert the prospect of war among the great powers of the day, namely the United States , China and Russia. If the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( Asean ) were arguably the two major regional peacemaking institutions of the second half of the 20th century, then let me propose that the first major regional peacemaking institution of the 21st century, post Covid-19 , should be a massive “Arctic League”. This new Arctic League should include Canada; the US; Russia ; several Northern European states, if not the entire EU; and, from Northeast Asia, China, Japan and the two Koreas. The Asian states are evidently not, strictly speaking, “Arctic states”, but they are sometimes called “near-Arctic” or “quasi-Arctic” states. I include them for geopolitical reasons, as the Arctic League now includes all the major states threatening or otherwise required to secure global peace in the post-coronavirus world. The Arctic League should be headquartered in the north of Canada – I suggest Whitehorse, in Yukon, or Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. Indeed, I would submit that Canada, as one of the Arctic giants, could lead the brokering of this new institution, working from a founding document we might eventually call the Whitehorse Treaty. Drawing loose inspiration from the medieval Hanseatic League, the new Arctic League would provide an organising framework and thick “rules of the game” for peaceful international commerce, transport, travel, science, culture, energy, people-to-people and environmental relations across the vast Arctic theatre that is opening up rapidly because of climate change and the melting of permafrost and sea ice. Once it opens up, this Arctic area – via land, sea, air and space – suddenly becomes an intense thoroughfare for at least the three continents of North America, Europe and Asia, and leading (often nuclear) countries representing almost 3 billion people. Why China-Russia relations are warming up in the Arctic At present, the mechanisms to bind these continents, major states, significant populations and markets in sustained, productive and peaceful coexistence across the Arctic do not exist – the light-touch Arctic Council notwithstanding. A new Arctic League, negotiated and launched with speed and purpose soon after the coronavirus emergency, would bring Washington, Beijing and Moscow under a common regulatory umbrella while also bringing a governance regime to a new “interstitial” geopolitical space that finds itself at the crossroads and mercy of several competing and often contradictory international structures. These are Nafta 2.0 (the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA), the EU, the Eurasian Economic Union (some of the former Soviet space), and Asia’s various economic structures. Instead of the US and China escalating in information warfare, economic recriminations and a mutually targeted military build-up after the Covid-19 emergency, the Arctic League would create a fresh new plane, logic and imagination for bilateral and multilateral coexistence. Let us imagine joint Chinese-American-Russian infrastructure, scientific and environmental projects on the Arctic Archipelago, a proliferation of new transpolar air routes connecting major northern Canadian cities like Inuvik, Iqaluit and Churchill with northern Russian cities such as Murmansk, Yakutsk and Norilsk, and regular travel and trade by sea between the ports of northern Europe and Asia via both the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. Embed the great powers in a “sticky”, predictable regulatory structure whence they will not generally wish to escape – that is the genius of today’s EU (and Asean to a lesser extent) as a peace project masquerading as a colossal economic project. Turn the manifest imminent battlefield of the Arctic – the biggest new battlefield in the world, by sheer territory – into a theatre of geopolitical amity masquerading as a post-Covid-19 association for trade, tourism, scientific and pedagogical exchange, and we might save the world entire. To be sure, such international architecture would require heroic leadership from several capitals, including Ottawa, and strategic and political forbearance from Beijing, Moscow and Washington. But the Arctic for now presents a reasonably unthreatening and even “friendly” image to most of the world – even if out of a basic naivety concerning the huge stakes at play. China’s plan for the Arctic – and a shipping centre to rival Singapore The obverse, of course, is a world in which the great powers pivot kinetically out of the coronavirus emergency, having lost complete confidence in each other and general confidence in international law and institutions, with precious few touchpoints among them, and with war preparations in the air. The Arctic, as one of the world’s great still-ungoverned theatres, will be a prime candidate for such war preparations. Or it may be the locus of one of the great peace projects of this early new century. To be determined. Irvin Studin is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Global Brief Magazine, and President of the Institute for 21st Century Questions (Toronto) Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.