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Russia's Arctic 'sea grab'
August 14, 2011 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Russia is expected within months to claim to the United Nations its right to annex about 380,000 square miles of the Arctic.
posted by - (45 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
We must stop the Russians from exploiting the Arctic now that it's being made more accessible due to global warming which we don't believe in!
posted by Avenger at 2:04 PM on August 14, 2011 [13 favorites]


"The global Arctic scramble kicked off in 2007 when Russian explorer Artur Chilingarov planted his country's flag beneath the North Pole."

That was a cunning use of a flag. Well played.
posted by homunculus at 2:12 PM on August 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well our armed forces are kind of busy, so unless Canada wants to raise a stink I'm afraid it is just going to happen.
posted by Renoroc at 2:12 PM on August 14, 2011


This seems excessive, we only grabbed 167,400 square miles in Iraq.
posted by tomswift at 2:13 PM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Canada "too small" to develop Northwest Passage shipping, diplomat says
posted by homunculus at 2:15 PM on August 14, 2011


How does this work? Is there a vote to approve but a Security Council member can veto? Would we veto it?
posted by michaelh at 2:16 PM on August 14, 2011


This seems like a bullshit claim to me. By this logic any coastal country would be able to lay claim to vast swathes of ocean just by claiming any random undersea ridge that appeared to just from "their" bit of continental shelf. I'm sure the Chinese for example would waste no time using the same approach to assert more control over the Asian seas. In short, fuck you Russia, why can't you just play nice like the rest of us?
posted by Flashman at 2:26 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


(er, 'just' should be 'jut')
posted by Flashman at 2:26 PM on August 14, 2011


I can't really geographically argue against Russia's claims or plans. It's a rather contiguous part of the natural terrain of the country.

But I do know Doublespeak. It seems like any time any country has ever announced plans to protect an ecosystem by developing it, and ensuring it's peace by militarizing - it hasn't ended well.
posted by loquacious at 2:35 PM on August 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Canada "too small" to develop Northwest Passage shipping, diplomat says

My feeling is that the ability to put in the infrastructure to open the Passage for shipping isn't really a factor in determining who it belongs to.
posted by Hoopo at 2:47 PM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


What they gain in the arctic they will lose to the Chinese in Siberia.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:50 PM on August 14, 2011


Watching the Harper government try to argue its way into control of Arctic trade routes while simultaneously denying global warming will be lulzworthy, at least.
posted by mek at 2:56 PM on August 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


WOLVERINES!
posted by Trurl at 3:28 PM on August 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


The continental shelf attached to New Zealand extends all the way under the pacific. NZ claims the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco (you can keep LA), and Japan, (except the radioactive bits).
posted by -harlequin- at 3:44 PM on August 14, 2011


I think a significant portion of the "Northwest Passage" could be considered an inland waterway of Canada. Russia and the US can duke it out over the Bering Strait, but there is a significant chunk of our coast before you get there. Russia doesn't seriously think they're going to claim several Canadian islands, do they?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:44 PM on August 14, 2011


"The global Arctic scramble kicked off in 2007 when Russian explorer Artur Chilingarov planted his country's flag beneath the North Pole."

Eponysterical!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:54 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


What the Russians are trying to claim ownership of is basically half the Arctic Ocean, well beyond the 200 nautical mile offshore border that's been the international agreement for ages. Frankly, it's just stupid. It would be like the UK claiming ownership of half the Atlantic. But those Russians love their chess games, don't they?
More details including map here.
posted by Pseudonumb at 3:55 PM on August 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yet another argument for the ratification of the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Sadly, SOVEREIGNTY WHARRGARRBL is killing any chance of ratifying it.
posted by squorch at 4:02 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wasn't Sarah Palin watching out for these kinds of shinanegans from her tower in Alaska?
posted by davemee at 4:08 PM on August 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


The continental shelf attached to New Zealand extends all the way under the pacific. NZ claims the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco (you can keep LA), and Japan, (except the radioactive bits).

A ha! You just admitted that it's your fault!
posted by hal9k at 4:18 PM on August 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm sure the Chinese for example would waste no time using the same approach to assert more control over the Asian seas.

They already have.
posted by onya at 4:30 PM on August 14, 2011


Why not just divvy it up like Antarctica? Lines of longitude extending from the North Pole to the Arctic Circle at the nearest land border or the halfway point of the nearest maritime border (for countries with coastal territory within the Arctic Circle).

Looking at this map, for instance, Greenland (Denmark) could get the slice from 60°W to the Prime Meridian, while Norway would get from the Prime Meridian through 30°E. Russia would get from there to the middle of the Chuckchi Sea, the US (via Alaska) from there to the land border near the Beaufort Sea, and Canada would get the remainder. Seems fair enough.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:34 PM on August 14, 2011


Lines of longitude extending from the North Pole to the Arctic Circle at the nearest land border or the halfway point of the nearest maritime border

That is one of the options on the table, and it would seem fair enough, but of course most parties involved are less interested in what's fair than they are interested in getting the upper hand in the deal.
posted by Hoopo at 4:40 PM on August 14, 2011


Why not just divvy it up like Antarctica?

Because the Antarctic Treaty ensures that Antarctica's natural resources aren't exploited, that there isn't any military usage, and so that Antarctica is mostly used for research purposes?

Because the land doesn't have just a uniform density of natural resources, and because certain parts of land will be location-wise and resource-wise better than other parts of land? Because divvying it up equally in terms of area is probably the least-neutral way to divvy things up?
posted by suedehead at 4:43 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I say we let them take it. Really what are they going to do eat the oil. We can't burn it much longer.
posted by humanfont at 4:50 PM on August 14, 2011


I didn't suggest dividing it equally, but rather based on the existing national territories in the area. The US would get a small percentage since its only Arctic claim is Alaska, while Russia would get nearly half because its Arctic coastline is so extensive. The similarity to Antarctica I was suggesting was the pizza-like arrangement of triangular slices centered on the pole.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:00 PM on August 14, 2011


I would have thought that there are already oil rigs operating in international waters. Is that not the case?
posted by -harlequin- at 6:04 PM on August 14, 2011


Does the small print on the Alaska Purchase have anything to say about this? What exactly did the USA buy from Russia? What's the default in international law if there's nothing explicit in the agreement?
posted by GeckoDundee at 6:08 PM on August 14, 2011


Don't worry, Obama will bargain them down to 400,000 sq. miles.
posted by chortly at 6:34 PM on August 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Does the small print on the Alaska Purchase have anything to say about this?

no - it's another part of the arctic that the russians are laying claim to

What exactly did the USA buy from Russia?

the right to claim sarah palin as our very own opportunistic whacko
posted by pyramid termite at 6:37 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does the small print on the Alaska Purchase have anything to say about this?

Ocean bed rights? Nothing. That's why the exact Exclusive Economic Zone that extends into the Arctic Ocean between Alaska and Canada is still in dispute. Might also be one of the reasons why the US hasn't ratified the Convention on the Law of the Sea yet.
posted by Pseudonumb at 6:41 PM on August 14, 2011


Just think- if it weren't for William H. Seward, she would be Zara Palinovna and not our problem.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:42 PM on August 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


How come Iceland doesn't get a slice of the Arctic pizza?
posted by madcaptenor at 6:49 PM on August 14, 2011


Thanks for the answers. I suppose I'm wondering if there's theoretically even more territory the Russians could claim.
posted by GeckoDundee at 6:51 PM on August 14, 2011


Just think- if it weren't for William H. Seward, she would be Zara Palinovna and not our problem.



So, in the end, it really was Seward's Folly. Shit, if we'd only known.
posted by webhund at 7:01 PM on August 14, 2011


She's from Idaho, so maybe it really was Lewis and Clark's Folly.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:03 PM on August 14, 2011


How come Iceland doesn't get a slice of the Arctic pizza?

They do. Sort of. Or at least Denmark gets those bits because it used to have Iceland too.
posted by GeckoDundee at 7:07 PM on August 14, 2011


Seriously, though, this way of dividing up the Arctic seems to depend way too strongly on where the North Pole happens to be. Wouldn't it make more sense to divide it up by saying that each country gets that part of the Arctic which is closest to its actual land? (I'm sure there's some subtlety in defining "land" that I'm missing.)
posted by madcaptenor at 7:16 PM on August 14, 2011


How come Iceland doesn't get a slice of the Arctic pizza?

Iceland is more focused on matters closer to home; for example, the northeast corner of its fishing territory, called Drekasvæði, might be incredibly oil and gas rich. The Russians expressed in interest in exploring the area, and Norway has already started. But they still are interested in Arctic matters, and were publicly annoyed when not invited to an Arctic Council meeting in Canada last year.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:16 PM on August 14, 2011


(I left out Iceland because it's just baaarely outside the Arctic Circle. And used the geographic North Pole since it seems like the most logical neutral point, being roughly in the center of the disputed area.)
posted by Rhaomi at 8:31 PM on August 14, 2011


New study blames human beings for half of Arctic ice melt
posted by homunculus at 9:10 PM on August 14, 2011


In all honesty, speaking as a Canadian here, meh. Russia is much better suited for the task geographically. Canada's arctic is all islands and shit, and you gotta dodge them and stuff, and it's not like much would be going in or out of our northern ports, so it'd just be a huge hassle for everyone.

Though, of course, if Russia really wants to link Europe to Asia, they could just put in some more highways and/or railroads.

Pretty sure it's not shipping routes the Russians are after. It's probably the usual: Oil.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:56 PM on August 14, 2011


Greenland (Denmark)

FWIW, I think as of 2009 Greenland is to Denmark as Canada is to Britain, i.e. no parentheses necessary.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 PM on August 14, 2011


I think a significant portion of the "Northwest Passage" could be considered an inland waterway of Canada.

I don't think there's any precedent for such an expansive claim, nor do I think the Law of the Seas Convention backs it up. My understanding is that internal waters are for situations more like Norway's and Chile's. Much of the Northwest Passage may fall within Canadian territorial waters, but even if so, that status allows foreign ships the right of innocent passage.

FWIW, I think as of 2009 Greenland is to Denmark as Canada is to Britain, i.e. no parentheses necessary.

Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark. Denmark is responsible for its security and foreign relations, and Denmark also provides an annual subsidy of about USD 11,300 per Greenlander (wp).

I anxiously await my cheque from Mr. Cameron.

posted by neal at 10:59 PM on August 14, 2011


Norway Wants Amundsen's Ship Back: Eighty years after it sank in the Canadian Arctic, the Maud may return to Norway.
posted by homunculus at 12:18 AM on August 24, 2011


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