Moscow's icy declaration red-flagged
Russia has staked claim to the North Pole. With the blessing of the increasingly authoritarian government, a small Russian submarine operating for scientific purposes left a Russian flag under the pole. It is believed that the Arctic seabed holds vast natural energy resources. Recently Canada has also brought up Arctic land rights. All-out Russia v. Canada? I doubt it. More saber rattling between Russia and the West? Probably. Whether the Litvanyenko murder case, anti-missile shield plans, or the matter of who has owns the icy depths, and the energy-rich land on the bottom.
This comes at a time when the law of the sea, as well as other geographical rights, is under debate in the international community. Control of supposed international areas and outer space is a hot geopolitical topic that will result in many voices clamoring for their fair share in the goods.
However territorial claim to the far north is a settled issue, says Canada, with a claim of its own in the Arctic. I guess this falls under law of the seabed?
Canada's top diplomat ridiculed Russia's flag-planting at the North Pole on Thursday as a "15th century" stunt that does not bolster its disputed claim to the resource-rich Arctic.
"Look, this isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and plant flags and say, 'We're claiming this territory,'" Foreign Minister Peter MacKay told broadcaster CTV.
Earlier, according to reports, a Russian mini-submarine reached the bottom of the Arctic Ocean under the North Pole at a depth of 4,261 metres (13,980 feet), to carry out scientific tests and leave a Russian flag.
The dive is believed to be the first of its kind and is part of a voyage that started on July 24. It aims to advance Russian claims to a vast swathe of Arctic seabed thought to be rich in oil and gas.
"Our claims over our Arctic are very well-established," MacKay commented.
"There is no threat to Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic and as you know, we've made very strong commitments, the prime minister has been there recently, may be there again (soon), so we're not at all concerned about this (stunt).
"It's basically just a show by Russia," he said.
A spokesman for Canada's foreign affairs department added: "Canada's sovereignty over the lands and waters of the Canadian Arctic is longstanding, well established and based on historic title."
The race is on for polar control
President Vladimir Putin has already described the urgent need for Russia to secure its "strategic, economic, scientific and defence interests" in the Arctic.
Moscow argued before a UN commission in 2001 that waters off its northern coast were in fact an extension of its maritime territory.
The claim was based on the argument that an underwater feature, known as the Lomonosov Ridge, was an extension of its continental territory, but it was rejected and Russia told to resubmit with more evidence.
Several countries with territories bordering the Arctic - including Russia, the US, Canada and Denmark - have launched competing claims to the region.
The North Pole is not currently regarded as part of any single country's territory and is therefore administered by the International Seabed Authority.
With the rise in global temperatures and thus the melting of polar ice-caps, competition has increased for nations seeking claim to the Arctic Circle.