Russia Ahead in Arctic 'Gold Rush' - 2007

It is difficult to overemphasize this development within the Arctic region. The political and economic significance of this bold operation is great indeed and will have long term effects. What's more, this is a good example of how Russia's strategic interests and national pursuits put it on a direct collision course with the West. Incidentally, how much coverage has this news gotten in the mainstream controlled media? Minuscule. Thus far, for the past several years that is, the Russian Federation has been on a fast forward momentum. From the Far East to the Baltic, from the Arctic to the Caucasus the Russian Federation has been consolidating its political and economic interests. Thus far, the West has not been able to effectively check Russia's ambitions. As a result, I believe that a direct collision of some sort between the two opposing interests is coming within the near future.

Arevordi

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Russia Ahead in Arctic 'Gold Rush'

State Duma Deputy Speaker and famous Russian-Armenian arctic explorer Artur Chilingarov

The Russians are leading a new "gold rush" in the high north, with a bold attempt to assert a claim to oil, gas and mineral rights over large parts of the Arctic Ocean up to the North Pole. Russia's most famous explorer, Artur Chilingarov, complete with nautical beard, is leading an expedition to plant the Russian flag in a capsule on the ocean seabed under the pole itself. "The Arctic is Russian," Chilingarov has said. "We must prove the North Pole is an extension of the Russian coastal shelf." Russia is claiming that an underwater mountain known as the Lomonosov Ridge is actually an extension of the Russian landmass. This, it argues, justifies its claim to a triangular area up to the pole, giving it rights under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention. Under Article 76 of the convention, a state can claim a 200 nautical mile exclusive zone and beyond that up to 150 nautical miles of rights on the seabed. The baseline from which these distances are measured depends on where the continental shelf ends. Russia lodged a formal claim in 2001 but the UN's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf told it to resubmit the claim. The flag-planting can be seen as a symbolic gesture in support. At the same time, other states are acting to protect their interests in the Arctic. Canada is planning to build up to eight new patrol ships and the US Congress is considering a proposal to build two new heavy polar ships.

The rush for the Arctic has become more frenzied because of the melting of parts of the polar ice cap, which will allow easier exploration, and by the urgent need for new sources of oil and gas. A new sense of nationalism is also evident in Russia. The ice thaw is predicted by a team of international researchers whose Arctic Climate Impact Assessment suggested in 2004 that the summer ice cap could melt completely before the end of this century because of global warming. If the ice retreats, it could open up new shipping routes and new areas where natural resources could be exploited. The US Geological Survey estimates that a quarter of the world's undiscovered energy resources lies in Arctic areas. At the moment, nobody's shelf extends up to the North Pole so there is an international area around the Pole administered by the International Seabed Authority from Kingston, Jamaica. But quite apart from the Russian claim there are multiple other disputes. The US and Canada argue over rights in the North-west Passage, Norway and Russia differ over the Barents Sea, Canada and Denmark are competing over a small island off Greenland, the Russian parliament is refusing to ratify an agreement with the US over the Bering Sea and Denmark is claiming the North Pole itself.

North Pole solutions

The five countries involved are considering two other potential ways of sharing the region, in which all the sea would be divided between them. The "median line method", supported by Canada and Denmark, would divide the Arctic waters between countries according to their length of nearest coastline. This would give Denmark the Pole itself but Canada would gain as well. The "sector method" would take the North Pole as the centre and draw lines south along longitudes. This would penalise Canada but Norway and, to a lesser extent, Russia, would gain. One major problem is that the United States has not ratified the 1982 UN convention, largely because senators did not want to have international restrictions placed on American actions. However, in May 2007, Senator Richard Lugar, a senior Republican, pleaded for ratification in the light of the Russian moves, saying that an American voice was needed at the negotiating table.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/6925853.stm

Russia Claims North Pole


Putin asserts his nation's ownership of 460,000 square miles of Arctic territory - and its huge reserves of oil and gas - after exploration feat of 'unimaginable difficulty'

Russia has taken a giant leap for the Kremlin by planting its flag on the ocean floor under the North Pole in a politically charged symbolic gesture to claim the rights to the sea bed which could be rich in oil and gas. In a dramatic technical feat testing international law, the Russians dispatched two mini-submarines 2.5 miles to the ocean floor in what is believed to be the first expedition of its kind. Both submersibles, with crews of three on board, completed their dangerous return to the surface yesterday after what was described as a "smooth landing". But the expedition raised the hackles of Russia's neighbours, who also have their eye on the vast mineral deposits that could lie under the Arctic area, and who consider the Russian move as a brazen land grab. "This isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say 'We're claiming this territory'," said Peter MacKay, Canada's Foreign Minister. Russia has fired the first diplomatic shot in a really cold war. The new oil rush has been galvanised by the accelerated shrinking of the polar ice cap because of global warming, which has allowed exploration that had been previously unthinkable because of the extreme conditions.

Russia claims that the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain range crossing the polar region, is an extension of its territory. The UN has rejected Moscow's 2001 claim to the ocean bed, which it says is part of its continental shelf under international law but the Russians are due to resubmit their case to the committee administering the Law of the Sea. A brains trust of 135 Russian scientists, led by a 68-year-old personal envoy of President Vladimir Putin, the explorer Artur Chilingarov, plan to map out part of the 1,240-mile ridge. But yesterday's scientific achievement of dropping a titanium capsule containing the Russian flag on to the seabed could not conceal the political advantage gained by Mr Putin. Once again, he has demonstrated to the West Russia's determination to expand its energy empire. The news of the mission's success dominated Russian television yesterday. Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin's spokesman, said the President considered it "very important ... Being a unique scientific expedition, it is of course supported by the President."

The Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said: "I think this expedition will supply additional scientific evidence for our aspirations." But he added that the issue of territorial claim to the polar region "will be resolved in strict compliance with international law". If recognised, the claim would give Russia control of nearly half of the Arctic's near-half million square mile sea bed. But four other countries - the US, Canada, Norway and Denmark - also have claims on the ocean floor which could hold as much oil and gas as Saudi Arabia. According to the US Geological Survey, the Arctic seabed and subsoil account for 25 per cent of undiscovered oil and gas reserves. The Russian convoy, consisting of a research vessel and a nuclear-powered ice-breaker, and the two submersibles which had been used in the filming of Titanic, set sail from the northern Russian city of Murmansk last week, catching the world by surprise. Initial concerns that the expedition could be thwarted by thick sea ice proved unfounded, although the research vessel, the Akademik Fyodorov suffered from engine trouble on the journey.

Mr Chilingarov was on board the Mir-1, the first submersible to go down, and spent eight hours and 40 minutes under water. The last 40 minutes were tense, as the crew tried to find an opening free of ice. "It was so good down there," he said on his triumphant return. "If someone else goes down there in 100 or 1,000 years, he will see our Russian flag." The Mir-2 had an international crew on board, including the Australian deep-sea specialist Mike McDowell who previously led tours to the Antarctic. The co-sponsor of the voyage, the Swedish pharmaceuticals millionaire Frederik Paulsen, was also on the submersible, according to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass. In addition to the engineering challenge - which has been compared to the first moon landing - the dark depths of the Arctic waters are so mysterious that the Russian crew did not know what they would find. Vladimir Gruzdev, who accompanied Mr Chilingarov on Mir-1, mused before their dive: "What if we encounter Atlantis there? Nobody knows what is there. We must use the opportunity given to us 100 per cent." The operation was straight out of a Jules Verne story, with expectations that exotic underwater creatures would appear from the uncharted depths. But in a momentous anti-climax, the expedition's leader declared: "There is yellowish gravel down here. No creatures of the deep are visible."

While in the Arctic, until mid-September, the scientists will continue to study in detail the climate, geology and biology of the polar region. But the Russians had better watch their backs: the Danes hope to prove that the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of Greenland, which is part of Denmark. Canadian and Danish scientists are currently on two icebreakers mapping the north polar sea. And in a reminder of the Kremlin's aggressive use of its oil and gas wealth, the state-run Gazprom this week threatened to cut off gas to Belarus in a re-run of the economic bullying of Ukraine in 2006 that affected further supplies to Europe. Belarus owes Russia $460m for gas. Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus's President, yielded to the demand yesterday, after being promised a little help by the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez. If Russia had carried out its threat, gas supplies to Germany and Poland would definitely have been at risk.

Source: http://news.independent.co.uk/sci_te...cle2831111.ece


In related news:


Gazprom says it hopes for major Arctic hydrocarbon discoveries


A Gazprom spokesman said Wednesday that the Russian energy giant expected "major new discoveries" of oil and gas reserves under the Arctic Ocean, and had large-scale prospecting plans for the region. Press secretary Sergei Kupriyanov discussed the company's plans in a radio interview, the day before a Russian exploration vessel is to send mini-submarines on the first-ever dive below the North Pole, a symbolic move as Russia attempts to claim a vast section of the Arctic. The United States' geological survey data suggest the Arctic seabed contains up to 25% of the world's oil and natural gas reserves, and other mineral riches, made accessible by the retreating of the polar ice due to global warming. Sergei Kupriyanov told Ekho Moskvy: "We have approved a program of work on the Arctic shelf, which includes a great deal of prospecting." The spokesman stressed the potential vastness of the Arctic shelf's reserves - the Shtokman field alone in the Barents Sea holds an estimated 3.8 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, he said. "This is more than we have supplied to Europe over the past 30 years. Less than 5% of the Arctic shelf has been explored, and we are sure that major new discoveries will follow," the official said. Two Russian Mir mini-submarines are to dive 4,200 meters (14,000 feet) below the Pole in what is seen as a publicity stunt designed to prop up Russia's claim to 1.2 million sq kilometers (about 460,000 sq miles) of the territory - the underwater Lomonosov and Mendeleyev Ridges - which Russia says is the continuation of its continental shelf and which is believed to contain mineral resources. The claim has been challenged by other countries. The UN has yet to rule on the claim. The area around the Pole is currently an international territory administered by the International Seabed Authority. Researchers in the Mir 1 and Mir 2 mini-subs will take soil and fauna samples on the ocean bed, leave a Russian flag and a message to future generations in a capsule, and establish a video link with the International Space Station.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20070801/70124523.html

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