In Digest, Russia

Introduction by New Cold, August 5, 2015

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on August 4 that Russia has submitted to the relevant United Nations agency a claim for 1.2 million square kilometers (over 463,000 square miles) of Arctic continental sea shelf. The claim is part of a lengthy and ongoing process internationally involving multiple countries laying claim to Arctic undersea territory, including the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway.

Russian icebreakers in Arctic Ocean (Russian government photo)

Russian icebreakers in Arctic Ocean (Russian government photo)

he announcement has been well received by political observers internationally because Russia is strictly adhering to established UN protocol to resolve competing claims. This will have interested repercussions in the national election campaign underway in Canada because the incumbent government has preached a coarse and intolerant line against Russia during the past 18 months, accusing it of being an international pariah that does not respect international law. Opposition parties have been on board. This from a government which, together with its U.S. big brother, is presently bombing areas in Iraq and Syria in total violation of those countries’ sovereign rights and which earlier bombed Libya and went to war in Afghanistan.

* * *

Russia’s Arctic claim to North Pole to put political heat on Canada, expert

By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press, Aug 4 2015

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on August 4 that Russia is claiming 1.2 million square kilometers (over 463,000 square miles) of Arctic continental sea shelf.

OTTAWA – Russia’s new bid for a vast swath of Arctic territory, including the North Pole, backs Canada into an uncomfortable corner in future negotiations over the frozen region, a defence expert says.

North PoleMoscow’s revised international submission was revealed August 4 and claims 1.2 million square kilometres of the Arctic shelf. [See text of Russian government announcement further below.]

Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway are working with the UN to define jurisdictional boundaries in the Arctic, which is thought to hold as much as a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea allows all coastal nations to extend their jurisdiction beyond 200 nautical miles as long as it can proven the boundary is a natural extension.

In late 2013, the Harper government ordered officials to rewrite Canada’s Arctic claim to include the North Pole and more survey work is taking place this summer before Ottawa submits the document.

Rob Huebert of the University of Calgary says Prime Minister Stephen Harper should make clear whether Canada is eventually willing to negotiate with Russia where claims intersect.

A translated version of the submission, released by the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, says the two countries had previously agreed to allow the UN commission overseeing the issue to evaluate and rule on the quality of the hydrographic research “without prejudice to the rights of the other state.”

The commission’s determination should also not impede a final boundary decision, the 36-page report said.

That means the two sides and possibly Denmark which has already filed its claim to the North Pole, will have thrash out the issue.

In its pitch, Russia states clearly it willing to abide by the results of the international process.

Huebert says the Harper government has taken a tough line on Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the questions that need to be asked are when does Canada re-engage diplomatically and whether that would signal de facto acceptance of the situation in Ukraine.

“It is Canada’s interest to have a safe and stable Arctic,” Huebert said in an interview on Tuesday. “Entering into negotiations could leave the impression that it is back to business as usual.”

Canada’s strident rhetoric and recent use of the Arctic Council as a platform to hammer Russia over the Ukraine crisis will make it difficult to climb down, Huebert suggested.

But he said negotiations, which are expected within the next five years, will have to take place, regardless of the situation in Ukraine.

“I think it’s inevitable,” he said.

The submission will also likely drive a further wedge between Ottawa and Washington, which according to published reports chastised Canada for making Ukraine an issue at the council meeting last spring.

The more Moscow looks reasonable on this issue and others, the more isolated the Harper government will become, Huebert said.

Canada and Russia clashed publicly in 2007 when Moscow staked a symbolic claim to the North Pole by planting a flag on the ocean floor.

* * *

Russia resubmits claim on vast Arctic seabed at UN

By Raveena Aulakh, environment reporter, Toronto Star, August 4, 2015

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.

The Russian government’s resubmission to the United Nations of its bid for vast territories in the Arctic, including the North Pole, doesn’t change anything much for Canada or its pending claim in the region, geopolitical experts say.

If anything, Russia’s good behaviour has been a pleasant surprise, said Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia.

“Given the tension over Crimea and the rest of Ukraine, I certainly wasn’t expecting Russia to behave so very well,” he said. “Russia is following the rules and has made a very restrained submission. It did not claim the entire Lomonosov Ridge. This is all good.”

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that it is claiming about 1.2 million square kilometres of the Arctic sea shelf, extending more than 650 kilometres from the shore. It said the bid contains new arguments. “Ample scientific data collected in years of Arctic research are used to back the Russian claim,” it said.

Russia, Denmark, Norway, the U.S. and Canada are all trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil, gas and minerals. Rivalry for these resources has intensified as shrinking polar ice is opening new opportunities for exploration and making the region less inhospitable.

In 2001, Russia submitted its initial claim to the North Pole and surrounding territory — mostly based on Soviet-era studies. But the UN sent it back for lack of evidence. Then, in 2007, two Russian mini-subs dived to the seabed and planted their red, white and blue flag at the North Pole — a symbolic claim.

Norway and Denmark have also submitted their claims to the UN.

Canada filed a partial submission in December 2013 that includes Atlantic seabed rights and said it would file an Arctic claim at a later date. John Baird, then-foreign affairs minister, said that Canada intends to lay claim on the North Pole but had delayed filing the bid until its scientists had sufficient data to back it.

The undersea Lomonosov Ridge runs from near Ellesmere Island northward over the pole and would be the geological basis for a Canadian territorial claim, according to reports. Scientists have suggested that it looks as if the ridge is connected to the Canadian land mass.

Hours after Russia declared that it had filed its claim, a spokesperson with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa said Canada has made significant progress in preparing its Arctic continental shelf submission but did not say when it expected to file it with the UN.

Canada also does not yet know the location or extent of overlaps that will exist with its neighbours, Diana Khaddaj said in an email.

Russia has an overlap with the Danish claim and will certainly have one with the Canadian submission, said Rob Huebert, associate director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

How it is resolved will be interesting to watch, he said. “. . . (We) have to wait for the Canadian section to see how much of an overlap it is.”

The entire process will likely take between 15 and 20 years.

Canada, said Huebert, has been working very hard on preparing for the claim, with scientists continuing to work in the Arctic. “I suspect we will be working very hard to get the Canadian submission in so that we can then move to the next stage.”

What Canada eventually files with the UN will be basically a series of undersea co-ordinates that map what the government claims is the country’s extended continental shelf. It will be up to the UN scientists to verify the claims of Canada and other countries.

Ottawa has allocated just over $170 million for the Arctic and the Atlantic continental shelf submissions.

* * *

Comment by the Information and Press Department on Russia’s application for Arctic shelf expansion


The Russian Federation has filed an application to expand the boundaries of the Russian continental shelf in the Arctic, to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The application takes into account the commission’s recommendations.

The Russian application covers an underwater space covering an area of about 1.2 million sq km at a distance of over 350 nautical miles from the coast. To justify Russia’s bid for expansion, Russian experts used extensive scientific data collected during many years of Arctic research. The submission of the application to the commission is a major step towards registering Russia’s rights to the Arctic shelf in accordance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In line with the commission’s procedural rules and practice, Russia’s application should be reviewed out of turn, as a priority, given the fact that we already applied for this in 2002. In this context, we hope the commission will start discussing our application in the autumn of 2015.

And see: Partial revised submission of the Russian Federation to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in Respect of the Continental Shelf of the Russian Federation in the Arctic Ocean, executive summary, 2015 (36 pages)

Read also:
Arctic to Antarctic: Russia’s new maritime doctrine, by Vladimir Shcherbakov, Russia Beyond The Headlines, July 31, 2015

A new maritime doctrine for Russia has been long overdue. The earlier doctrine, announced and adopted in 2001, was based on projections for two decades, till 2020.

From the article:

Russian President Vladimir Putin: “We have been working on updating the Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation. The main purpose of this complex document is to provide a coherent, consistent, and effective maritime policy for Russia, aimed at protecting our national interests.”

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin: “The Atlantic, due to the fact that in recent years, NATO has been actively developing and moving closer to our borders, and the Russian Federation must of course, develop an answer to this. The second factor is related to Crimea and Sevastopol reuniting with the Russian Federation, and measures need to be taken for the speedy integration of Crimea and Sevastopol into the national economy. Then of course, there is the restoration of Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean.”

“As for the Arctic, it has become more important for several reasons. This is due to the growing importance of the Northern Sea Route… In addition, the Arctic provides free access to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for us, which nothing can block. Then there is the very rich continental shelf, which requires careful attention when it comes to development.”

U.S. eases travel restrictions for Natives between Siberia and Alaska, New Cold, Aug. 5, 2015


EDITOR’S NOTE: We remind our readers that publication of articles on our site does not mean that we agree with what is written. Our policy is to publish anything which we consider of interest, so as to assist our readers in forming their opinions. Sometimes we even publish articles with which we totally disagree, since we believe it is important for our readers to be informed on as wide a spectrum of views as possible.

Recent Posts
Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Start typing and press Enter to search

Translate »