Prepares to Challenge the West on Arctic Delimitation
by Paul Goble
series: Crisis in the Caucasus - 2008
The Russian / Georgian Conflict and Its Impact on Azerbaijan
Window on Eurasia: Original
Vienna, September 18 - President
Dmitry Medvedev told the Russian Security Council yesterday that
Russia must "in the nearest future" define the border
of Russia's claims to the seabed of the Arctic Ocean, an action
that will present a serious challenge to the other Arctic powers,
including the United States.
"Our first and fundamental task," Medvedev said, "is
to convert the Arctic into a resource base for the Russia of
the 21st century" by demanding that the international community
recognize Moscow's claims to an exclusion zone based on the extent
of the continental shelf extending from Russia proper. http://www.annews.ru/news/detail.php?ID=167625
According to the Russian president, Russia must guarantee its
"energy security" by ensuring that it has unchallenged
access to oil and gas reserves under the Arctic Ocean and its
role as a bridge between Europe and Asia by guaranteeing that
it and no one else controls the Northern shipping route that
global warming is opening up.
Following Medvedev's lead which had been anticipated by a meeting
last week of some members of the Russian Security Council on
an Arctic island, that body approved a policy document on "The
Basic Features of Russia's State Policy in the Arctic" which
calls for the government to come up with plans for its realization
by December 1st.
Moscow has already signaled its intention to take a very forward
position in the far north. On the one hand, it has organized
a series of scientific expeditions intended to provide evidence
for Russian claims over the largest area of the Arctic. And on
the other, Gazprom has already created a daughter company to
develop the undersea gas fields.
As "Gazeta" pointed out today, Russian claims in this
regard have already sparked "a sharp dispute" between
Moscow and the other Arctic states, with the United States, Canada
and Denmark being especially concerned and with the EU saying
in March 2008 that Russia's claims could threaten its relations
with Moscow. http://www.gzt.ru/politics/2008/09/17/223002.html
After providing an overview of the century-long dispute about
the Arctic, the paper quotes Anatoly Dmitriyevsky, the director
of the Moscow Oil and Gas Institute, who said that the Arctic
Ocean seabed had "five times more" oil and gas and
other useful minerals than does the Pacific.
Consequently, he said, the discovery by Russian researchers in
2006 and 2007 that two undersea crests extend that country's
continental shelf much further than anyone had been able to prove
before - although no further than the Soviet Union had claimed
as early as 1926 - provides Russia with the whip hand in negotiations
about the delimitation of the Arctic.
But on this point, none of the other Arctic powers agrees with
the claims Dmitriyevsky notes and that Medvedev and the Russian
Security Council are now preparing to advance formally, with
one US State Department official even saying that Washington
looks on them "extremely skeptically."
Given that - and the reaction of other Arctic power like Canada
and Norway which have been more explicit in rejecting Russian
claims - the Arctic Ocean basin seems certain to be heating up
over the next few months and not just because of the now much-reported
effects of global warming.
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