In an operation straight out of a Jules Verne novel,
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated by telephone the Russian explorers who descended to a depth of 4,000 metres in two mini-submarines and planted the one-metre high titanium Russian flag on the sea bed on August 2. After all, this politically charged symbolic gesture to claim the rights to the sea bed is also backed by scientific proof enabling
The North Pole may contain substantial amounts of oil and gas that could become accessible as the Arctic icecaps melt. Following preliminary geological studies done in the areas of the
Timing could not be better.
The move makes a strong statement also on the domestic stage ahead of the Russian parliamentary elections this December and the presidential elections in March 2008. “Planting the Russian flag in the North Pole is a very powerful, nationalistic-type of statement that plays really well to the domestic audience at this time where the political season is about to start,” Weafer said.
An equally important reason why Russia decided to stake its claim now is that the window of opportunity for it might well close in the next couple of years as the US adapts more environmentally-friendly proposals and therefore does something about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The US Senate has failed to ratify the 1982 Law of the Sea since Ronald Reagan was president. The treaty creates rules for the world's oceans and their resources.
But the flag-planting expedition alarmed
"It is not accidental that they urgently sent the Oden icebreaker to the North Pole. There are 30 members on their expedition team, while we sent 100 scientists onboard two vessels. We reached the North Pole first," Chilingarov said.
Putin has thrown down the gauntlet for the Arctic energy race. But this time around Russia is playing a more clever game. “Planting the Russia flag on the North Pole on the sea bed, that’s just theatrics ... but Russia is actually making very serious scientific efforts to prove that its continental shelf does extend out substantially into the Arctic,” Weafer told New Europe.
It will be very difficult for Russia to prove this claim but it is building a strong case. “They will perhaps use this strong position to work out some favourable deal with the other countries, particularly with Norway and Canada, and then come up to some sort of division of the Arctic region. This is going to be a long game,” the Moscow-based energy strategist said. “At the end of this process, the Arctic will be divided based on negotiation rather than flag-thinking.”
And the Arctic icecaps will be melting!
by Kostis Geropoulos