Thursday, August 2, 2007
The race for the Arctic
So Russia, already the world's biggest country, is planning to annex most of the Arctic as well.
A Russian expedition headed by the Rossiya nuclear icebreaker reached the North Pole yesterday. The next step, we're told, is to send a pair of mini-submarines to the seabed to plant a Russian flag there. That could happen as early as today.
It's the latest and boldest move to support a decades-old Russian claim to much of the Arctic and the rich stores of oil and natural gas believed to lie under the seabed there. The claim is based on a Russian conclusion that an underwater shelf known as the Lomonsov Ridge is in fact an extension of Russia's continental land mass.
Each of the five countries that border the Arctic - Canada, Russia, the U.S. (via Alaska), Norway and Denmark (via Greenland) - has a 200-mile zone of control that stretches out from their northernmost tip of land. It's a formula that leaves most of the Arctic as international waters, under no country's sovereignty.
The Russian argument, however, is that the Lomonsov Ridge, which runs right under the currently international section of the Arctic, is as Russian as St. Petersburg or Murmansk, meaning that its 200-mile zone-of control now includes much of the previously unclaimed parts of the Artic.
If we needed any more proof that Vladimir Putin's Kremlin is expansionist, here it is. But on a more serious note, does the claim make any sense?
Here's what Sergey Priamikov, the international co-operation director at the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St Petersburg, told The Guardian:
"Frankly I think it's a little bit strange," he said. "Canada could make exactly the same claim. The Canadians could say that the Lomonosov ridge is part of the Canadian shelf, which means Russia should in fact belong to Canada, together with the whole of Eurasia."
In fact, Canada is making the same claim - at least as far as the Lomonsov Ridge and the resources beneath it - and Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to visit the Arctic next week.
But might likely makes right in this case. While Russia has the technical capability to sail to the Arctic and plant a flag beneath it, Canada simply does not. There are only five submarines in the world that can descend to the Arctic seabed. Russia has two of them, Canada has none.
That said, I'm hearing Canada may yet trump the Russians by asserting its sovereignty over all of Eurasia.
Frankly, you should all start getting used to the taste of maple syrup on everything.
See what the future looks like here, at one of my favourite websites, The Canadian World Domination General Headquarters.