September 14, 2008

Russia Defends Large Arctic Resource Claims

In a race with Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said on Friday "the Arctic must become Russia's main strategic resource base."

The world's second biggest country and second biggest oil exporter is seeking to stake its claim its share of oil, gas and precious metals that would be made available by melting of the Arctic ice cap through global warming.

Patrushev assembled the defense and interior ministers and the speakers of both houses of parliament for the meeting on the Arctic island where he announced that a large swathe of the Arctic seabed should belong to Russia because the area is an extension of the Siberian continental shelf.

Patrushev, formerly Russia's powerful domestic spy chief, said competition from other Arctic powers was increasing and that Russia must strengthen transport links across its Arctic regions to drive development.

Canada, Norway, Russia, the United States and Denmark -- which governs Greenland -- all have a shoreline within the Arctic Circle, and have a 200-mile economic zone around the north of their coastlines.

However, Russia said its Arctic claim should be much larger based on the contention that the Lomonosov ridge, a vast underwater mountain range that runs underneath the Arctic, is an extension of the Siberian continental shelf.

Under the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty, any state with an Arctic coastline that wishes to stake a claim to a greater share of the Arctic must lodge its submission with the U.N.'s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

Russian geologists estimate the Arctic seabed has at least 9 billion to 10 billion tons of fuel equivalent, about the same as Russia's total oil reserves.