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. Arctic Crisis -- Part 2

The United States has been jealous of Russia's attempts to project its dominance in the energy sector and has sought to limit opportunities for Russia to control export routes and energy deposits outside Russia's territory. But the Arctic shelf is something that Russia has traditionally regarded as its own. For decades, international powers have pressed no claims to Russia's Arctic sector for obvious reasons of remoteness and inhospitality -- but no longer.
by Vladimir Frolov
UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow (UPI) Jul 26, 2007
In order to legally claim that Russia's economic zone in the Arctic extends far beyond the 200 mile zone, it is necessary to present viable scientific evidence showing that the Arctic Ocean's sea shelf to the north of Russian shores is a continuation of the Siberian continental platform. In 2001 Russia submitted documents to the U.N. commission on the limits of the continental shelf seeking to push Russia's maritime borders beyond the 200 mile zone. It was rejected.

Now Russian scientists assert there is new evidence that Russia's northern Arctic region is directly linked to the North Pole via an underwater shelf. Last week a group of Russian geologists returned from a six-week voyage to the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater shelf in Russia's remote eastern Arctic Ocean. They claimed the ridge was linked to Russian Federation territory, boosting Russia's claim over the oil- and gas-rich triangle.

The latest findings are likely to prompt Russia to lodge another bid at the United Nations to secure its rights over the Arctic sea shelf. If no other power challenges Russia's claim, it will likely go through unchallenged.

But Washington seems to have a different view and is seeking to block the anticipated Russian bid. On May 16, 2007, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made a statement encouraging the Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention, as the Bush administration wants. The Reagan administration negotiated the convention, but the Senate refused to ratify it for fear that it would unduly limit U.S. freedom of action on the high seas.

Lugar used the following justification in his plea for the United States to ratify the convention: "Russia has used its rights under the convention to claim large parts of the Arctic Ocean in the hope of claiming potential oil and gas deposits that might become available as the polar ice cap recedes due to global warming. If the United States did not ratify the convention, Russia would be able to press its claims without the United States at the negotiating table. This would be directly damaging to U.S. national interests." President Bush urged the Senate to ratify the convention during its current session, which ends in 2008.

The United States has been jealous of Russia's attempts to project its dominance in the energy sector and has sought to limit opportunities for Russia to control export routes and energy deposits outside Russia's territory. But the Arctic shelf is something that Russia has traditionally regarded as its own. For decades, international powers have pressed no claims to Russia's Arctic sector for obvious reasons of remoteness and inhospitality -- but no longer.

Now, as the world's major economic powers brace for the battle for the last barrel of oil, it is not surprising that the United States would seek to intrude on Russia's home turf. It is obvious that Moscow would try to resist this U.S. intrusion and would view any U.S. efforts to block Russia's claim to its Arctic sector as unfriendly and overtly provocative. Furthermore, such a policy would actually help the Kremlin justify its hard-line position. It would certainly prove right Moscow's assertion that U.S. policy towards Russia is really driven by the desire to get guaranteed and privileged access to Russia's energy resources.

It promises to be a tough fight.

Vladimir Frolov is the director of the National Laboratory for Foreign Policy, a Moscow-based think tank. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti.

United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.

Source: United Press International

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Italy, Greece, Turkey Sign Gas Pipeline Deal
Rome (RIA Novosti) Jul 27, 2007
Italy, Turkey, and Greece have signed an agreement to build a pipeline to bring natural gas from the Caspian and the Middle East to European markets, Italy's Edison gas company said Thursday. "The gas pipeline will go into operation in 2012. It will help diversify gas supply sources, while promoting competition," a company spokesman said, adding that it is of strategic importance.

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