Russia is unabated in its plans to gain economic control over a region of the Arctic, also encompassing the North Pole.
The Russian Federation once more filed a petition with the United Nations that requires 463,000 square miles are placed under its economic control. In 2002 a similar petition was on the United Nations’ table. At the time, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf declined to grant the Russian Federation what it wanted, arguing that not sufficient evidence was brought forth.
As such, Russia prepared better this time. Mirroring economic hegemony aspirations from the 1930s, and the appetite for expansion, even a submarine was sent to probe the waters of the region the Federation is interested in.
As to the reasons that Russia is really interested in the Arctic region, there are several takes. One is that the region is indeed home to an abundance of unexploited oil and gas deposits and Russia’s energy policy, both internally and from a foreign policy perspective would greatly benefit from the natural resources, getting an ever stronger grip on the energy sector.
Climate change and the rapidly disappearing ice blankets are working in the Federation’s favor if the UN is to grant economic control this time around.
Another take on the stakes at hand comes from international security scholars. Robert Huebert, who is an associate professor in the University of Calgary’s Department of Political Science, declared for the BBC:
“As Putin tries to reestablish Russia as a great power, as we see the increase of military activity elsewhere, the Arctic also provides the best springboard by which the Russians can once again emerge as a dominant geopolitical military player in the entire international system”.
Another statement, this time coming from author of “Who owns the Arctic” and Professor of International Law of the University of British Columbia, Michael Byers, reads:
“The Barents Sea in the western Arctic is ice-free throughout the year and therefore a very important place, not to access the Arctic Ocean but to access the Atlantic and to project power around the world”.
The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea envisions that all nations abutted to the Antarctic Ocean has a claim to an exclusive economic zone, extending a total of 200 nautical miles into the ocean.
Under the current claim, Russia is invoking a separate article which agrees a nation is entitled to 350 nautical miles under a different regulatory frame.
The Russian Federation is not alone in claiming exclusive economic rights over a region of the Arctic Shelf. Royal Dutch Shell already set out plans to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea. The plans are set to start this summer.
Denmark also submitted a similar claim to that of Russia, which might be the starting point of a different conflict. Denmark asserts that the region of the North Pole that Russia is also claiming is not continental shelf jutting from Russia, but from Greenland.
This region is known as the doughnut hole. Approximately the size of Texas, it is bound to become the apple of discord between nations. Meanwhile, environmental and conservation activists are doing their best to protect the area from further exploit.
Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace stated that:
“the melting of the Arctic ice is uncovering a new and vulnerable sea, but countries like Russia and Norway want to turn it into the next Saudi Arabia”.
With Canada, Denmark, Norway and the U.S. as competitors in the race for the continental shelf in the Arctic, Russian officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that it is expected the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf give precedence to the Russian claim as it was the first filed in 2002.
While Russia reportedly expects an answer by this fall, a UN spokesperson declared that UNCLOS only meets in early 2016.
Photo Credits: scmp.com