Within a year, the Russian government is expected to claim about 380,000 square miles of the internationally owned Arctic in front of the United Nations. “At stake is an estimated one-quarter of all the world’s untapped hydrocarbon reserves, abundant fisheries, and a freshly opened route that will cut nearly a third off the shipping time from Asia to Europe.” In 2007, the Russian explorer Artur Chilingarov planted his country’s flag beneath the North Pole claiming that the Arctic is an extension of the Siberian landmass. The U.S., Canada, Norway and Denmark may also claim parts of the territory.
What’s the Big Idea?
As the Arctic ice melts, new trade routes and underwater oil fields are opening up. The northern countries that border the Arctic are negotiating for territory comprises to assure their share of the new sea and to keep others such as China, Japan, South Korea and even the European Union from planting its flags. The Arctic is governed by the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which the U.S. is not a signatory. As summers continue to reveal a more watery Arctic, time is running out to make an orderly division of the new territory.