The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved most of Russia’s seabed claim in the Arctic Ocean earlier this month. However, the last word on the right to the disputed territory has not yet been spoken – Denmark and Canada have also filed claims, some of which overlap with those of Russia.
For the first time, Russia submitted an application regarding its claim to the continental shelf in the central Arctic Ocean to the Commission in 2001. It called for a revision, which Russia submitted in 2005 with an expansion of about 103,000 square kilometers. Addenda followed in 2021 after more accurate seafloor data became available in the Arctic Ocean. According to the IBRU Center for Borders Research (Durham University), this increased the area claimed by Russia by another 704,000 square kilometers to now 2.1 million square kilometers.
The Russian claim extends along the Lomonosov Ridge beyond the North Pole to Greenland and Canada’s 200-mile limit. However, there are larges overlaps with the claims of Greenland/Denmark and Canada, including the Lomonosov Ridge area, which is claimed by all three countries. Though, the applications from Greenland/Denmark and Canada have not yet been processed by the Commission. And according to the Greenlandic news platform Sermitsiaq AG, this will not happen before 2032 for the Greenlandic-Danish claims. Canada will have to wait even longer for it.
Thus, the current recommendation of the Commission is not yet a final decision, but it is the recognition of the Russian claim from the highest authority in this matter.
In the midst of Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the Commission’s confirmation helps the Kremlin demonstrate strength and resilience to the Russian people and the rest of the world. The Arctic has been and continues to be used by Russian and Soviet leaders for generations for demonstrations of power.
With the right to the seabed of the continental shelf, the respective nation receives the right to exploit all mineral and non-living materials. It does not include a right to fish or engage in other activities in the water column or on sea ice.
Julia Hager, PolarJournal
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