Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Denmark Lays Formal Claim To The North Pole


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Denmark, however may be the first to file a formal claim with the UN. Yesterday Denmark's Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard filed a formal claim with with the UN for roughly 900,000,000 square miles of the Arctic Ocean which includes the geographic North Pole. 

Russia has been loudly asserting its claim to the North Pole and virtually the entire Arctic Ocean which it wants to rename the "Russian Sea". But Russia has not filed a formal claim with the appropriate United Nations forum. Canada has also more quietly announced a claim that extends to and includes the North Pole but maintains it is gathering evidence for its claim and has not filed yet. Denmark beat everyone to the court house steps. The U.S. would like to see some element of the commons maintained in the Arctic ocean and be able to enjoy its UN recognized exclusive economic zone off of the Alaska coast undisturbed. Greenland and the remaining High Arctic stake holders have yet to forcefully articulate positions as yet.  

This move by Denmark  comes amid fears that geopolitical tensions are rising in the Arctic.Things had been rather cooperative until oil was not only discovered, but Russia actually began production in the High Arctic. Prior to the Russian production activity, the countries bordering the polar region — the five Nordic states, Canada, Russia and the US — set up the Arctic Council to which they invited states such as China, South Korea and Japan as observers.

Russia is increasing its military presence in the Arctic and animosity on both side over the Russian seizure of the Crimea is fueling concern that the High Arctic may cease to be an area of relatively peaceful cooperation. At present the recognized international regime is that each Arctic coastal nations has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) extending roughly 200 miles offshore from their coast line. But now three nations are claiming overlapping extended EEZs and Russia, in bear like fashion, is claiming almost the entire ocean. Russia is building Arctic military bases, and actively drilling for and producing oil. Russia has an abundance of ice breaking ships while the U.S. has only two, one relatively small and the heavy duty one past retirement age. Meanwhile the rival claimants to the North Pole are engaged in lawfare based on the United Nations Convention On The Law Of The Sea which the United States has still not ratified. 

 At the heart of the dispute is the roughly 2,000 mile long Lomonosov Ridge that runs from just off the coast of Greenland and Canada to the sea above eastern Siberia. Denmark claims almost the entire ridge while Canada and Russia claim parts. The conflicting claims appear to be exacerbating tensions beyond the High Arctic. Denmark and Russia are experiencing aircraft and vessel incidents in the Baltic. Last Friday a Danish commercial passenger plane had to take evasive action relative to a Russian military aircraft. Most analysts agree that Russia's response.

 Meanwhile the rest of the world still thinks of the North Poles as part of the global "commons", or if there is private ownership that would be Santa Clause and he wasn't consulted any more than the rest of us.

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