False Cold War in the Arctic

decembre-dernier-danemark-revendique-ensembleThe case was presented almost as a declaration of war: Tuesday, Russia has claimed sovereignty over 1.2 million square kilometers in the Arctic. But despite concerns, experts believe the country Vladimir Putin demonstrated “restraint” in its aims. And they believe that competition for resources described in that region is largely exaggerated.

Since the annexation of the Crimea and the Russian incursions in Ukraine, the territorial ambitions of Vladimir Putin are scanned with apprehension by the West. Russia filed Tuesday before the UN bid detailing, she said, the extent of its continental shelf in the Arctic. But this time it seems that anxiety is exaggerated.

“Russia follows the rules and shows considerable restraint in its bid. I think this is great news, “said Michael Byers, Arctic specialist and professor in the department of political science at the University of British Columbia.

The specialist is expected that the submission of Russia to include the entire Lomonosov Ridge, a geological structure 1800km argue that Canada, Denmark and Russia. Last December, Denmark claimed the entire ridge. But to everyone’s surprise, Russia chose not to claim a part.

Kristin Bartenstein, an expert in international law of the sea at Laval University, did not examine in detail the submission of Russia. But it notes that the country is following to the letter the process under the United Nations.

“Russia does not comply with international rules everywhere. But in the Arctic, for the moment, she does it in the rules. A priori, I see nothing to worry about, “said she told La Presse.

She said politicians and the media sometimes ascend hairpin legal process that is currently ongoing in the Arctic.

“All that can be loaded with questions of identity, sovereignty, race, competition. But we can also make a very different reading, take a much more serene look, and that Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway are only as provided by the UN Convention, “she said .

Present the issues as a race for oil and gas, for example, is greatly exaggerated in his eyes.

“We read all kinds of uninformed things, but the scientific evidence tells us that the parts of the seabed that are interesting in terms of resources are much closer to the land territory, generally within 200 nautical miles of the coasts” she said. Now these areas are not disputed.

Asked to comment on the submission of Russia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Canada has avoided making waves.

“All countries with coastlines on the Arctic Ocean, including Russia, follow the process prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”, said the Ministry by email, adding that all countries ” committed to an orderly resolution of possible overlaps of the continental shelf. ”

The ball in the Canada camp

Experts agree that the main overlapping claims in the Arctic occur between Russia, Denmark and Canada. However, the latter is the only member of the trio not to have presented complete submission to the United Nations.

In 2013, Canadian scientists were yet ready to submit bids. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper had personally requested that Canadian claims include the North Pole. Result: Canada has decided to submit only partial data to the United Nations and launched new scientific work at the North Pole. Two Canadian icebreakers went there last summer, and they returned this summer.

According to Michael Byers of the University of British Columbia, this work is probably futile since science and the law suggest that the North Pole could be Danish or Russian but not a Canadian.

“This is a difficult exercise, expensive, which is achieved with equipment that is not the most appropriate and which, in my opinion, may not be necessary,” he said.

When all submissions will be filed, the UN will review the scientific basis. It is far from impossible that science shows that some areas, including the famous Lomonosov Ridge, are both extensions of the continental shelf of Canada, Denmark and Russia. In this case, countries will negotiate. And according to Robert Huebert, Arctic expert at the University of Calgary, the dilemma will then arise as to what attitude to adopt towards Russia.

“The geopolitical context is particular, he recalled. Russia has used force to redraw borders in Europe. If we negotiate with it about the Arctic, this may be positive for the Arctic. But it also means that normalizes relations with a country we consider as an aggressor. ”

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