Russia will spend 2 billion rubles (US $64 million) in the next three year on research on the geology of the Arctic shelf, Yuri Trutnev, the Russian minister for natural resources, announced on Tuesday, 21 September. Russia hopes in particular to find scientific evidence for its politically far-reaching claim that the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain range in the Arctic Ocean, is geologically an extension of Siberia’s continental shelf.
Russia, Canada and Denmark are all claiming the ridge to be part of their national territory.
In 2001, Russia became the first country to file a territorial claim to the United Nations (UN) Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea. The UN rejected the claim for which it said there was not sufficient scientific evidence. Russia plans to submit a new claim in 2013 based on the results of more solid research.
Meanwhile, the flagship of the Russian polar fleet, the Academician Fedorov, is due next month to return from an expedition to the Laptev and East-Siberian Seas where Russian geologists have in the last three months explored the seabed structure.
As global warming and shrinking sea ice makes the High North more accessible, the Arctic Ocean, where experts suspect a large part of the world’s undiscovered mineral resources, is increasingly becoming a focus of geopolitical considerations. An Arctic strategy paper signed in 2008 says the Arctic must become Russia’s “top strategic resource base” by 2020.
Territorial claims, environmental issues and future co-operation in the Arctic are also discussed this week at a two-day international forum in Moscow, attended by 300 scientists and policy-makers. Speaking at the meeting, Iceland’s president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson yesterday called for an end to ‘Cold War’ tensions over the Arctic.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, during a meeting last week in Moscow with his Canadian colleague Lawrence Cannon, had warned the NATO of getting involved in political disputes over Arctic seabed ownership. Arctic issues should be resolved by peaceful negotiations, he said.
Last week, Russia and Norway signed an agreement over their borders in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean, ending a 40-year dispute and a de-facto moratorium on oil and gas exploitation in the region.