On Tuesday 4th August, Russia presented a formal claim at the UN to have the right to exploit a vast area of the Arctic Sea situated near the North Pole. Russia asked to exploit an arctic platform of 1,2 million square kilometres, that begins near the Russian cost and extends over 650 kilometers. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf – a UN Commission that engages with this kind of disputes – will have to decide now whether to accept or decline Russia’s revendication: It is a much debated topic that has already caused tension between various States in the past because of their claim to control over different parts of the North Pole.
If the UN accept Russia’s petition, the Kremlin will be able to exploit economically the requested arctic platform, even without having full sovereignty over it: for instance, they will have the right to authorize fishing and to start gas and petroleum drilling.
The Arctic does not belong to a single State at the moment: USA, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark own parts of it, but sovereignty over the largest part of its area has not been decided yet. During the last years, especially since glaciers have begun to melt and new opportunities have emerged to explore the area, the Arctic has become one of the most desired regions on Earth: it is estimated that here is to be found a quarter of the natural reserves of gas and petroleum that have not been discovered yet. The zone is important also from a strategical point of view for the future opening of commercial routes that may become usable due to global warming.
Russia had already presented a similar request to the UN in 2001, without result because the Commission rejected its claims, arguing that proofs were missing to sustain their validity. But according to Sergej Lavrov, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, in comparison to 2002, Russia has now gathered proofs to back their request. Up till now, two more States have presented a formal claim to the UN Commission in order to obtain the right to exploit a piece of the Arctic: Canada and Denmark.
Translated by Ecaterina Severin