Russia plots course in race for the Arctic

Russia's Security Council is set to meet to work out the country's strategy in the Arctic. The region contains an estimated 25 per cent of the world's remaining oil and gas. Russia is among those keen to claim it.
According to the United Nations' Law of Sea, any state with an Arctic coastline that wishes to stake a claim to the region must lodge its submission with the UN's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

And that is exactly what Russia intends to do.

Geologists estimate there are around 10 billion tonnes of fuel equivalent in the Arctic seabed - the same as Russia's total oil reserve.

The country's specialists want to prove that the Lomonosov ridge, a vast underwater mountain range that runs underneath the Arctic, is an extension of the Siberian continental shelf.

Should they succeed - it would be the icing on the Arctic cake. But whether Russia's claim cuts any ice with the UN is anybody's guess - as the other contenders will certainly not give up without a fight.

"The challenge for Russia is that its Arctic neighbours have long started to formulate their own Arctic strategy, while Russia needs a great deal of inter-ministry and inter-departmental coordination in order to come up with a solid strategy in terms of diplomacy, geology and economy. It's for that reason that the Security Council wants to set up some very specific goals and then an action plan," political analyst Mikhail Troitsky said.

Successful expedition

In August 2007, Russia's Arktika expedition scored a spectacular success. It achieved the first crewed descent to the North Pole's ocean floor, bringing fame and recognition to the crew.

But it also began a 5-way tug of war.

Russia, Canada, the USA, Norway and Denmark are now fighting for the right to claim the ocean bed as their own.

And while the subject matter may be ice cold - the debates are heating up.

"Canada's government understands the first rule of Arctic sovereignty: use it or loose it," Canada's PM Stephen Harper has said.

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