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Hot Disputes around Domain of Cold

07.08.2007 12:55

The voyage of Research Vessel "Academician Fedorov" and atomic-powered icebreaker "Russia" as well as symbolic Russian flag-placing on the seabed of the Arctic Ocean on August 2 within the framework of this expedition raised concerns in the countries claiming for this Arctic region of the globe.

We are speaking about Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, USA, China and many other countries that are concerned over a possible expansion of the Russian territory by 1.2 million sq. kilometers (due to specification of the continental shelf boundaries), and that expressed their interest to the Polar latitudes.

For example, according to the Western press, a new Cold War or to be more precise an "Ice" War already started. In this connection British The Times writes that "descent of bathyscaphes with the Russian researchers who intended to stake out a Russian claim for the Arctic Region sharply whipped up the efforts of the international community to defend and control the region that was called by an American Admiral "a last unexplored bastion on the Earth".

The reasons are more than strong.

For reference:

The Arctic (from the Greek word Arktikos, which means Northern) is the region around the Earth’s North Pole that includes parts Eurasia, North America, almost the entire Arctic Ocean and its islands (but for coastal islands of Norway), northern areas of the Atlantics and Pacific. The boundary is generally considered to be north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33’N) (21 million sq. km) or sometimes the Southern Tundra (27 million sq. km of them about 10 million sq. km of dry land). According to the current international law the Arctic is divided into five sectors with the base on the northern borders of Russia, USA, Canada, Denmark (Greenland) and Norway, sides – along the meridians and corners – on the North Pole.

Firstly, experts reasonably suppose that due to the global warming the Arctic waters relatively soon will be open for intensive sea traffic. Chairman of the US Arctic Research Commission George Newton said at the Economic Forum in Davos in early 2006 that the forecasts about such developments come true, and already in 2005 the thickness of the pack-ice was the least in the history of observations. According to the data of the Polar Institute published in May 2007, the water temperature in the Barets Sea, for example, rose by 1°C during last 10 years. The amount of ice there reduced two-fold. According to scientists, during the nearest 100 years the temperature in the Arctic Region in general will rise by 5.5 °C on the average. It will enable the countries to start actively using the Polar sea routes that are the shortest ways between Europe, America and Asia. The control over at least part of these routes is highly beneficial. We are speaking about the Polar Sea Route and North-Western Sea Passage, which is expected to become accessible by 2050.

Secondly, the Artic is of a great geostrategic and military importance. It is almost permanently patrolled by A-submarines of the leading powers. The submarines cut the corner on their way from ocean to ocean, and if we speak on the Strategic Arms, they provide for the earliest response in an emergency.

Thirdly, the Arctic has a huge economic potential in terms of both bioresources and minerals. According to the US Geological Survey Agency, the Arctic has at least 25 per cent of unexplored hydrocarbon reserves of them 80 per cent are of the natural gas. In absolute figures, according to experts of Norwegian Sate-Owned Oil and Gas Company "Statoil", the crude reserves in the Arctic Ocean amount to 375 billion barrels, or even 500 billion barrel according to The Times. That is at an oil price of $70 per barrel the value of the crude reserves may reach 35,000 billion Dollars. The Arctic has also deposits of diamonds, Ag, Cu and Zn. In totally, as quoted to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "the resource potential of the Arctic is yet unknown".