Russian Strategy in Arctic: The Case of Lomonosov Ridge

27.03.2024

Arctic is emerging a new geopolitical struggle ground in International politics. All regional and global big powers including Europe, Russia, US are directly engaged   because of their territorial interests. China is also entering directly in the game through policies and strategic initiatives. While the location is strategically significant, the permanent snow makes navigation difficult and economically costly. Many leading experts claim that the Arctic is becoming the future political battleground, not only for sharing strategic space among major powers but also for its natural resources and the Northern Sea Route.

The Arctic Circle begins at 66.5oN (north of the equator) (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2024).  Eight countries have territory in the Arctic Circle: Canada, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States (Arctic States. n.d.).

Generally, the Law of the Sea applies to the Arctic as well. However, due to the lack of historical application of this law in the Arctic and the refusal of the US and other countries to rectify this situation, many disputes have arisen. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) creates the international legal regime for oceans, including the Arctic Ocean (U.N,n,d).  Each Arctic country, including the U.S., follows U.N rule of 200-mile exclusive economic zone.   In the claiming beyond the decided rule U.S. is at a disadvantage because it is not a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides mechanisms for countries to claim more rights (UNCLOSdebate.org. n.d.).  Canada, Russia, and Denmark (on behalf of Greenland) turned to one of those mechanisms. Though disputes regarding sea were always existed but were settled by war and diplomacy. There was no any official concept of demarcation for territorial sea. The idea and issue of sovereign territorial sea emerged in post-world war 2 or in post-colonial scenario as many independent and sovereign nation established.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

With the emergence of numerous new states, a complex web of territorial claims has unfurled, leading to the proliferation of pollution, intensifying competition for valuable fish stocks within coastal waters and adjacent seas. This surge in rival demands has sparked heightened tensions between the rights of coastal nations and those of distant-water fishermen. Additionally, the promising potential for abundant resources on the ocean floor has drawn increasing attention, further exacerbating the situation. The expanding presence of maritime powers and the challenges of long-distance navigation only compound these issues. Amidst these developments, the traditional notion of freedom of the seas appears outdated and fraught with inherent conflicts. The cumulative effect of these factors threatens to transform the oceans into yet another arena characterized by conflict and instability. To mitigate emerging conflicts and issues in 1949, the International Law Commission made a significant decision to focus on codifying both the regime governing territorial waters and that governing the high seas. Following extensive discussions and consultations with various stakeholders and experts, the Commission finalized its report on the territorial sea in 1956(International Law Commission, n.d).

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