Medvedev makes a play for Arctic riches

Medvedev makes a play for Arctic riches

Dmitry Medvedev stepped up the brewing territorial conflict in the Arctic today by announcing that Russia would formalize its northern border. The competition for energy resources in the Arctic region has been heating up as global warming has made them more accessible.

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Under international law, the five countries with Arctic claims — Russia, Canada, the United States, Norway, and Denmark (Greenland) — can exploit resources up to 200 miles off their coastlines. The Russians say their continental shelf extends under the North Pole, where they used a miniature submarine to plant the Russian flag last year in a widely reported publicity stunt.

There could be as many as 10 billion tons of oil at stake in the Arctic seabed and today, Medvedev linked the region to Russia’s energy future:

Our first and fundamental task is to turn the Arctic into a resource base for Russia in the 21st century. Using these resources will entirely guarantee Russia’s energy security. […] We must finalize and draft a law on setting the southern border of the Arctic region…. This is our responsibility to future generations.”

The folks in Canada, which has a massive Arctic claim as well, aren’t taking this very well. Canada was already looking north uneasily after the invasion of Georgia and has been conducting military excercises in the region. Some commentators are now calling for Canada to increase its activity in the Arctic in order to bolster its territorial claim. There is apparently no ban on weapons in the area so it’s not hard to imagine things getting out of hand.

As for the United States’ own Arctic rights, I can’t help thinking that this is an international topic that the governor of Alaska might actually be expected to know about. Maybe Sean Hannity could ask her for us tonight?