Russia formally staked its claim Tuesday to a large portion of the Arctic Ocean that includes the North Pole, even planting a flag on the floor of the ocean below the area to exercise its control.
The New York Times reported:
If the United Nations committee that arbitrates sea boundaries accepts Russia’s claim, the waters will be subject to Moscow’s oversight on economic matters, including fishing and oil and gas drilling, though Russia will not have full sovereignty. Under a 1982 United Nations convention, the Law of the Sea, a nation may claim an exclusive economic zone over the continental shelf abutting its shores. If the shelf extends far out to sea, so can the boundaries of the zone. The claim Russia lodged on Tuesday contends that the shelf extends far north of the Eurasian land mass, out under the planet’s northern ice cap.
While the United Nations dismissed a similar claim issued by Russia over a decade ago, citing lack of scientific evidence, the current claim is accompanied by data collected by Russian research vessels.
Famed Russian arctic explorer Artur N. Chilingarov even traveled to the floor of the ocean just below the North Pole in a small submarine to remove a soil sample and plant a titanium Russian flag on the sea floor.
The Russian Foreign Ministry posted a statement to its website regarding the issue, boasting of the "broad range of scientific data" Russia has accumulated to justify its claim.
"To base its claim, Russia in this region used a broad range of scientific data collected over many years of Arctic exploration," read the statement. "Submitting the claim to the commission is an important step in formulating Russia’s right to the Arctic Shelf in accordance with the United Nations convention on the Law of the Sea."
The government institution insisted that, if accepted, the claim would expand the size of Russia’s land and sea territory to approximately 463,000 square miles. Russia is currently the largest country in the world when measured by area.
Denmark also formally submitted its own claim to the North Pole area last year, but the Russian Foreign Ministry argued that Russia’s claim should be assessed first because the country had issued its original claim in 2002.
Russia has not only been asserting its authority over sea territory; the country has also proved aggressive in the sky. NATO fighter jets policing over eastern Europe as part of the Baltic air policing mission intercepted 22 Russian aircraft over a week’s time at the end of July. Two of the instances represented the largest intercepts over eastern Europe in the last year and a half.
In recent weeks, two high-ranking Pentagon generals tapped by President Obama to hold top posts at the Department of Defense have named Russia as the most significant existential threat to the United States.