Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Russia and the great Arctic Sea land rush

Thoughts from the Jamestown Foundation on Russia's aggressive assertion of rights over big chunks of the Arctic here (pdf). From the Executive Summary:
The symbolic planting of the Russian flag on the seabed close to the geographic North
Pole on August 2, 2007, has received a disproportionate amount of media coverage and triggered massive jubilation domestically as well as international criticism. Officially, Moscow has
maintained that it acted in full compliance with the Law of the Sea Convention. The goal of
the on-going series of expeditions is to collect scientific evidence for resubmitting to the UN
Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) its request to confirm that some
460,000 mi2 of underwater terrain between the Lomonosov and Mendeleev ridges are the
continuation of the Siberian shelf and thus could be added to Russia’s exclusive economic zone. In fact, however, this particular expedition had minimal scientific content but played a prominent role in adding an Arctic dimension to Russia’s assertive foreign policy.

It is widely believed that the main driving force behind Russia’s claim is energy, since
research indicates that the Arctic shelf could contain significant reserves of hydrocarbons.
Gazprom, however, is in no rush to develop even the proven fields in the Barents Sea and the
government is not planning any major breakthrough in off-shore production. It is within the
realm of possibility that in some 30 years the ice cap could become much thinner but the demand on oil and gas would remain so high as to justify their production at enormous costs in the High North. It is obvious, though, that the current rush to the Northern frontier is driven by other factors, domestic as well as geopolitical, which justify the application of such risky instruments as combat patrolling by the Long-Range Aviation...

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