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The Arctic Crisis Part 1

New permanent waterways and ice free lands will have a major strategic impact on the Arctic its surrounding powers.
by Vladimir Frolov
UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow (UPI) July 25, 2007
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush spent most of their time at the "lobster summit" at Kennebunkport, Maine, discussing how to prevent the growing tensions between their two countries from getting out of hand. The media and international affairs experts have been portraying missile defense in Europe and the final status of Kosovo as the two most contentious issues between Russia and the United States, with mutual recriminations over "democracy standards" providing the background for the much anticipated onset of a new Cold War.

But while this may well be true for today, the stage has been quietly set for a much more serious confrontation in the not too distant future between Russia and the United States -- along with Canada, Norway and Denmark.

Russia has recently laid claim to a vast 460,800 square-mile chunk of the ice-covered Arctic seabed. The claim is not really about territory, but rather about the huge hydrocarbon reserves that are hidden on the seabed under the Arctic ice cap. These newly discovered energy reserves will play a crucial role in the global energy balance as the existing reserves of oil and gas are depleted over the next 20 years.

Russia has the world's largest gas reserves and is the second largest exporter of oil after Saudi Arabia, but its oil and gas production is slated to decline after 2010 as currently operational reserves dwindle. Russia's Natural Resources Ministry estimates that the country's existing oil reserves will be depleted by 2030.

The 2005 British Petroleum World Energy Survey projects that U.S. oil reserves will last another 10 years if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not opened for oil exploration; Norway's reserves are good for about seven years and British North Sea reserves will last no more than five years -- which is why the Arctic reserves, which are still largely unexplored, will be of such crucial importance to the world's energy future.

Scientists estimate that the territory contains more than 10 billion tons of gas and oil deposits. The shelf is about 200 meters, or 650 feet, deep and the challenges of extracting oil and gas there appear to be surmountable, particularly if the oil prices stay where they are now -- over $70 a barrel.

The Kremlin wants to secure Russia's long-term dominance over global energy markets. To ensure this, Russia needs to find new sources of fuel and the Arctic seems like the only place left to go. But there is a problem: International law does not recognize Russia's right to the entire Arctic seabed north of the Russian coastline.

The 1982 International Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes a 12-mile zone for territorial waters and a larger 200 mile economic zone in which a country has exclusive drilling rights for hydrocarbon and other resources.

Russia claims that the entire swath of Arctic seabed in the triangle that ends at the North Pole belongs to Russia, but the U.N. committee that administers the Law of the Sea Convention has so far refused to recognize Russia's claim to the entire Arctic seabed.

Next: Where Russia and the United States differ on the Arctic

(Vladimir Frolov is the director of the National Laboratory for Foreign Policy, a Moscow-based think tank.

Source: RIA Novosti

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Russia Proposes Drafting Simpler START Arms Treaty
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Jul 23, 2007
Russia has proposed to the United States that the sides draft a simpler version of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), a senior Defense Ministry official said Wednesday. The current START treaty expires December 5, 2009. "In our opinion, we should not allow a vacuum in the sphere of strategic arms control," Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky said.







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