Russia’s President Vladimir Putin submitted a petition to the UN in hopes that the eastern mega-power receive exclusive economic control over a region that could hold 5 billion tons of oil and natural gas.
These latest claims were submitted this week, yet economic experts believe that the move is neither threatening nor surprising. That’s because, even if the claim were granted, the petition would have Russia’s broader interests of empowering its presence on the world stage underscored.
International law clearly states that the Arctic cannot be owned by neither person nor country. Yet certain dispositions allow nations to lay claim to certain economic regions. In light of this disposition, countries such as Canada, the US, Denmark, Norway and Russia may all claim economic zones abutting their shores.
Russia’s claim, however, hopes to take advantage of another particularity. The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea claims that each of the aforementioned nations may claim an economic zone limited to 200 nautical miles into the ocean starting from that particular nation’s baseline. In Russia’s case, the claim insists that the nation’s continental shelf is larger than 200 miles.
The area in question encompasses 463,000 square miles and includes the North Pole. It has become that much more attractive due to accelerated Arctic ice melting rates. But Russian scientists must first prove Putin’s claims in order to gain access to the resources that it so dearly desires.
Conflicting claims may arise, yet the UN Commission will only address Russia’s claim next year and is not capable of deciding on overlapping claims.
Though the UN convention addressed the issue of economic zones, Russia may be attempting to not only monetize the vast resources that the Arctic houses. For the past couple of years, Russia has strived to re-establish its military supremacy. And reopening military bases in the Arctic may be one of Moscow’s goals.
Back in 2002, Russia submitted a similar claim to the UN. At that time, a UN commission rejected the petition because of a lack of scientific evidence. Since then, Russian scientists have been working towards substantiating their claim. They used mini-submarines to scour the region and collect the much-needed evidence.
According to Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this submission should start being studied by UN scientists. If geological facts will support Russia’s claim, international law will recognize Putin’s economic claim of the Arctic and may award an area as large as 350 nautical miles.
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