Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Russia is Claiming a Vast Undersea Territory in the Arctic

Moscow’s occupation and annexation of Crimea has attracted enormous attention and much criticism, but its efforts to get the international community to declare a much larger area of the Arctic Ocean Russian coastal waters and thus an exclusion zone have not.

That may be about to change. Moscow has just filed a revised request with the International Commission on Continental Shelf Boundaries, a UN body, and asked that the commission grant Russian the right to an economic exclusion zone in the Arctic far beyond the current 350 miles from its shores.

The Russian government made a similar request in 2001, but after three years of study and controversy with the other Arctic powers – Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States – the commission rejected that application. Now, on what it says is new research over the last decade, Moscow is applying again.

The Russian argument is that various undersea mountains and plateaus are part of its continental shelf and therefore naturally part of its coastal waters. But the other Arctic powers and others, including China, have disputed that, arguing that these subsea features are separate and independent from any continental shelf.

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