For The Arctic Institute, he has written the article Five Misconceptions in Arctic Security and Geopolitics where he discusses some of the analytical pitfalls that continue to characterize Arctic debates.
In the article Sikkerhetspolitiske utfordringer i nordområdene: Konflikteskalering og økt oppmerksomhet, he points to some security and foreign policy challenges in the northern areas that Norway will have to deal with in the coming years. First, he looks at the escalation potential in the north and associated measures to reduce this tension. He then highlights four areas where Norway would benefit from more openness and clarity both in the Nordic debate and vis-à-vis allied states.
– The Americans are here to show that NATO takes the northern areas seriously. The fact that they participate in exercises will be a deterrent to Russia, says Østhagen.
Several people have expressed skepticism that the world's largest aircraft carrier is now operating in Norwegian waters, and that it could be seen as a provocation towards Russia. Østhagen is aware that there is a need for a balancing act.
– Is it right to be a pacifist? asks Østhagen.
– When developing a security policy, we look at the intentions of other countries. The fact that Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and then went to war with Ukraine last year shows that the regime in Moscow emphasizes military power. Norway is a vulnerable country that does not have a defense that is strong enough on its own. It's therefore important that the Americans, as our most important ally, take part in exercises in Norway. It is the US that will help us if something were to happen, and then it is important that Norway has good cooperation with the Americans.
Østhagen points out that Russia has criticized Norway for being a military springboard for the US, and that it is increasing military activity in the northern area.
– These are rather artificial accusations from the Russian side considering that the increased military activity on NATO's part is a response to the increased activity on the Russian side. It all becomes paradoxical and a scary development, and we do not want conflict with Russia, he elaborates.