Russia’s claim to the ocean floor beneath the Arctic ice cap has been dismissed by other countries with territories bordering the region. A Russian flag was planted more than 4,000 meters below the north pole after a submersible was used to explore the watery depths for scientific purposes. It was a risky journey and the symbolism wasn’t lost on the Russian public. But according to neighbouring governments Moscow has no right to claim ownership of the region.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Peter Mackay: “There is no question over Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic. We have made it clear. We established a long time ago that these are Canadian waters and this is Canadian property. You can’t go around the world these days dropping a flag somewhere. This isn’t the 14th or 15th century.”
The five states with land inside the Arctic circle have a 320-kilometre economic zone around their coasts. Russia says theirs should extend as far as the pole because the sea bed and Siberia are linked by one continental shelf.
The ocean floor is believed to hold vast reserves of untapped oil and natural gas, which is expected to become accessible as climate change melts the ice.