Cover photo from express.co.uk
So, here’s a question for international law hawks and geographers everywhere: who owns the sea floor under the Arctic Ocean? According to Russia, they should own a whole lot of it. They said so to the United Nations. (From Yahoo)
Russia is claiming 1.2 million square kilometers (over 463,000 square miles) of Artic sea shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles (about 650 kilometers) from the shore.
Last time most of us looked, International Law said claims of sea floor were much more limited than that. In fact, along the Arctic circle, Russia, Norway, Canada, Denmark and the United States have been having the very discussion of just how much of the sea bed belongs to who for a very long time. Why? Oil.
Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas. Rivalry for Arctic resources has intensified as shrinking polar ice is opening new opportunities for exploration.
Never mind that the ice cap is growing by all reports, but it seems that EVERYONE wants the oil under that sea. Not only that, Russia has been claiming the sea floor since 2002. The last time the Russians tried to make it official, the United Nations denied the request for lack of evidence, but that hasn’t deterred Putin and company. In 2007, they dropped a Russian flag to the bottom, and they’ve been doing military operations in the ocean of late.
The effort has included the restoration of a Soviet-era military base on the New Siberian Islands and other military outposts in the Arctic. Earlier this year, the military conducted sweeping maneuvers in the Arctic that involved 38,000 servicemen, more than 50 surface ships and submarines and 110 aircraft. As part of the drills, the military demonstrated its capability to quickly beef up its forces on the Arctic Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land archipelagos.
While Russia may be displaying this Cold War urgency to the world, the United Nations, in whatever tenuous hold they have on international law that, realistically anyway, is constantly in flux and enforceable by nothing other than good will among the various nations, won’t be looking into this claim until next year at the earliest.
Haq, the U.N. spokesman, said there is no plenary meeting of the commission this fall so the revised Russian submission will be included in the provisional agenda for its meeting in February or March. In accordance with the commission’s rules, he said Russia’s latest submission is being circulated to all 193 U.N. member states, including all charts and coordinates.
So, Russia may be in a rush to get to all that Arctic oil, but the UN isn’t just going to jump to their bidding. Thank Heaven for small favors.
H/T – Jazz Shaw at HotAir