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. University ofTexas Library Under international law, the five countries with Arctic claims — ...

592519_080917_arctic5.jpg
592519_080917_arctic5.jpg

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.

University ofTexas Library

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.

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.

University ofTexas Library

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?

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.