07/02/2007versione stampabileprintinvia paginasend

Russia lays claim on the North Pole, threatening to annex it
La piattaforma LomonosovReasons for annexation. Some might call the news sensational. At least that’s how some Russian geologists just back from a six-week Arctic expedition on an atomic icebreaker described it. And what they discovered is this: the Lomonosov ridge—which divides the frozen Arctic Sea into two basins, one Eurasian, the other North American—connects Russia to the North Pole. That means that the vast crescent-shaped region as big as France, Germany, and Italy combined belongs to the Russian Federation, which now plans to annex it. The discovery was heralded by the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda with publication of a huge map of the Arctic showing the new “added territory” marked by a little Russian flag, just like in the game of Risk. The underwater region in question is crisscrossed by enormous ice shelves, trenches, basins, and plains. But it is also extremely rich in natural gas and petroleum—to the tune of 10 billion tons, according to scientists. Since the ridge is little more than 200 meters deep in many spots, gas and oil reserves would be easy to get at.

Immagine delle terre sopra la piattaforma LomonosovCompeting claims. According to international treaties, the North Pole doesn’t belong to anyone and no one can claim to own it. Five countries lie along the Arctic Sea: Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway, and Denmark (along with Greenland). Each is said to exercise sovereignty over a commercial zone that extends up to 320 kilometers out from the coast. In order to claim additional territory, states must prove that their continental shelf structure is analogous to the geological structure of their territory. According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, none of these countries can claim that their continental shelf extends to the North Pole. The International Seabed Authority also considers the area around the North Pole “international territory.”

Modello della dorsaleA question of choice. In 2001, the Kremlin brought its claim before the UN Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in an attempt to have its coastal border extended beyond the standard 320 kilometers. The claim was denied. The Convention on the Law of the Sea was established thirteen years ago and is the only law applicable to disputes over usage rights and navigation routes in international waters. The Convention was ratified by 152 nations including Russia. The United States, however, argued that the law surrendered too much power to the United Nations and refused to sign. But given the Kremlin’s recent attempts to gain control over this territory so rich in natural resources, it turns out that might not have been the wisest choice.
Luca Galassi