Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Russian territorial excesses

Over the last few weeks there have been a number of news reports concerning the expedition into the Arctic by Russian scientists. Their stated aim is to prove that additional territory beneath the Arctic Sea is part of the continental shelf of Northern Russia. If they are able to prove this, then, under International Law, they will claim the right to begin mineral extractions (read: oil & natural gas) from beneath the Arctic Sea.

At the moment, no single nation has these rights, as the bed of the Arctic Sea is oceanic crust, and not continental. The BBC has the following diagram as part of their article on the subject.

In that you can see the structure the Russian are claiming to be theirs. Now take a look at the following composite satellite image from Wikipedia's article on the Arctic:

Again you can see the Lomonosov Ridge running across the center of the image, from upper right to lower left. Now take a close look (you might have to load up the original image) at the top right end of the ridge. It clearly becomes less distinct as it approaches the continental shelf of Russia, indicating that the ridge falls away to the sea-bed there. In fact the ridge stops distinctly short of the Russian continental shelf.

Hopefully, if this situation isn't clear enough from a simple shot like this, then any geological evidence from the Arctic sea-floor is going to similarly demonstrate that the only nation having even a vaguely legitimate claim upon the Arctic Sea is Denmark, via Greenland. And even that claim would be of dubious strength as it's not completely clear that the Lomonosov Ridge actually reaches the Greenland continental shelf either!

It is time that Russian stopped messing around in boats and submarines trying to claim a right to pollute the Arctic Sea, and get around to sorting out their internal problems with a premiere who's nature seems more Tzar-like by the minute. The United Nations and the international courts should be protecting the Arctic from exploitation in the same manner as the Antarctic continent is protected. These environments are far too fragile to support oil and gas extraction industries.

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