For years, Russia has made claim to over one million square kilometers of the Artic. This claim was previously rejected by the United Nations, but a recent expedition into the region found that the underwater Lomonosov Ridge connects to Russia’s continential shelf (or so Russia claims). By identifying this geological link, Russia could press a claim for roughly 460,000 square miles of ocean as its territorial waters which may have a reserve of 10 billion tons of natural gas and oil.
Canada and Denmark are stepping up with an alternative claim, that the Lomonosov Ridge belongs not to the Siberian continental shelf but to the Canadian-Greenland shelf. I understand is also the position of the United Nations.
Maps referenced from the New York Times. Unclaimable areas under the Convention on the Law of the Sea not shown.
The US, having access to the Arctic via Alaska, would probably fare better under the Russian proposal, but so far the United States is the only interested party not to advocate any proposal. Why? The US Congress has so far delayed ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which governs all claims on territorial water, because there is a ten-year deadline for claiming new areas of the sea as territorial waters once the treaty is ratified.
Although here CA we have frequently questioned the long-term viability of Russia’s vast territory, which make it the largest country in the world, the Kremlin may be deciding that the best defense is a good offense. If accepted, Russia’s claim to the arctic would be a notable territorial gain (larger than the California/Texas territory gained by America after the Mexican-American War), and it wouldn’t cost it a penny (or a ruble).