Canada and Russia battle for the Arctic

A hot fight over one of the coldest places on earth

by Jonathon Gatehouse

Allan White/Getty Images

It’s a hot fight over one of the coldest places on earth. Just in time for Christmas, Canada announced its intention to lay claim to the North Pole, some 800 km north of Alert, Nunavut, the country’s—and the world’s—northernmost settlement. However, in this case it’s not the sheet of sea ice that’s important, rather what might lie four kilometres below. By some estimates, the high Arctic is home to 15 per cent of the globe’s undiscovered oil and as much as 30 per cent of its untapped natural gas. And the scramble for title to those undersea riches has placed Canada on a collision course with the United States, Denmark, Norway and, most especially, Russia.

The government of Vladimir Putin submitted its initial claim to the North Pole—and 740,000 sq. km of surrounding territory—to the United Nations in 2001. Then, in 2007, two Russian mini-subs dived to the sea floor and planted their red, white and blue flag.

International law only allows countries to extend their territory 200 km offshore. So the competing claims for the far North are based on some creative interpretations of where the land masses actually end. All involved nations are arguing that undersea mountain ranges that criss-cross the floor of the Arctic Ocean are extensions of their own continental shelves. And it will be up to the UN to adjudicate their maps and scientific claims, and then bring them to the table for what promises to be many rounds of contentious bargaining.

In the meantime, Canada’s surprise move has already provoked a sharp response from the Russians. Putin has vowed to beef up his country’s military presence in the disputed region by reopening several shuttered Soviet-era military bases and commissioning new nuclear subs and patrol aircraft. Now the pressure will be on Canada to show its sovereignty. Get ready for the new cold war.




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Canada and Russia battle for the Arctic

  1. The teeth are a nice touch.

    • Yes, they are, too bad they aren’t ours. :)

      • Why yes, looking primitive and tribal would be cool, right?

        • actually it looks more like a giant blue “Sperm” whale (‘member Moby Dick ?), in a naval kinda way. Salute ! :)

          • Primitive….macho, same thing

          • ok, you made your point, but now who’s “baiting” ? ;)

          • LOL

  2. Just when is some enterprising jouro going to lift the cover on Harpers Northern Strategy and find nothing, nada! It’s been obvious for some time now ( Northeners have always been highly skeptical) it has amounted to nothing more then political posing.( the LPC got the charter, we got the North. The dif being the charter is in existence, up and running)
    I’d like to politely ask the media if they think its about time Harper paid a price for this?

  3. Russia has nuclear powered class 1A Super icebreakers, and Canada has… nothing remotely comparable.

    • Well, if the time it takes us to acquire a replacement for Sea Kings is any indication, we should have them in about 100 years.

      • I’d write “lol”, except that you’re lamentably right.

        And we’ve had governments of differing political parties and none of them has managed to get this going.

      • LoL, why do you think the Russians are laughing at us !
        aka, see the “teeth” on Her ?

      • …and don’t forget our stealth canoes, although they’re more useful when our navigational waters aren’t forzen over.

  4. Canada needs a program for shipbuilding something like the one the US has for aircraft carriers.

    They don’t go build a bunch of them and then stop for decades. Instead they have a continuous build of one every few years, and retire the oldest one whenever a new one is commissioned.

    That way they don’t lose the experience and capability for building ships, and don’t break their budget by panic stricken building when the old ones are just about clapped out.

    Pick one shipyard as the master contractor (not MIL Davie, since they can’t seem to do anything right) and have them subcontract parts of the ship to other shipyards.

    And build one new icebreaker every five to ten years or so.

  5. Ooooh and suddenly it’s okay….even admirable….to tax and spend eh?

    • Where’d you get that idea?
      Borrow and spend is the Reformacon way.

      • LOL well borrow it or tax it….these things cost big bucks!

        And ‘toys for the boys’ is apparently more appealing than education or health. Even though 99.9% of people would get more use out of education and healthcare and never even SEE one of the toys.

        • H, E, & W are provincial jurisdictions, not federal.

          We’re talking here about a federal issue, a national issue, not a provincial one.

          • I’m talking about a current financial issue. Not the constitution. Not war. Not niceties that separate what we need from toys for the boys.

          • Education and healthcare are a provincial financial issue, not a federal financial issue.

            Federal money for ships cannot be transformed into provincial money for health or education.

            Those are separate and different issues that you’re getting confused over.

          • I’m talking about a current financial issue. Not the constitution. Not
            war. Not niceties that separate what we need from toys for the boys.

          • You’re mixing up federal and provincial financial issues.

            And can’t seem to grasp that most simple of realities.

          • I’m talking about a current financial issue. Not the constitution. Not war. Not niceties that separate what we need from toys for the boys.

          • You need to reboot your recording device.

            It’s stuck and making no sense.

          • You need to talk to your family.

          • No, an actual reboot is needed, since your machine is now just making another repetition of an old and even more worn out meme.

        • God damn right never give women a dime. The only good women is a dead women once we figure out cloning and robo wombs your obsolete

          • LOL I shan’t hold my breath.

          • Slow down mate.
            would you really say that to your Mother ?, or let me re-phrase that, ’cause as the Doobie Bros. once sang: “…if not for love, where would we be right now…”
            anyway, ok, no sides given, no sides taken.

    • We NEED to keep a presence there, do you not understand that princilple.?
      It’s called “sqautters” rights, and it’s an untold international heritage amongst the Human Race. Bascially, if you don’t use it, or you’re NOT willing to defend it, then you’ll lose it, and someone else WILL use it, and/or live on it, as they see fit.

      • Mmmm war baiting again eh?

        • …ya, I’m “baiting” you Emily. Didn’t you know ? – you’re our secret-weapon against the Russians’ -trust me, we’ll win. :)

  6. Governments need to tax, and they need to spend.

    What would be admiral would be to do the former as carefully as possible, and the latter as efficiently as possible.

    In the case of long term projects, like replacing ships or planes, spending effectively and efficiently seems to be a persistent problem across all governments.

  7. And this is why we can’t have nice first strike jet fighters.

    • $250M per plane….I should think not. LOL

  8. “International law only allows countries to extend their territory 200 km offshore.”

    Umm, no. Under the old law, countries could extend their exclusive economic zones (EEZ) 200 nautical miles offshore, which is a tad larger than 200 km (370.4 km, to be precise). Under the Law of the Sea rules ratified by Canada in 2003, countries can extend their EEZs to the measured base of their continental slopes, up to a maximum of 350 nautical miles (648.2 km) from the shoreline. Where two country’s claims overlap, the boundaries between them should be equidistant from their respective shores.

    The furthest reaches of Canadian shoreline (on northern Ellesmere) get up to about 83 degrees north, which is ~420 nautical miles from the north pole (each degree of latitude =~60 nautical miles). That kinda presents a problem for Harper’s wish to claim the north pole as an exclusively Canadian entity.

    • That would be an even more severe limitation for the Russians, since none of heir land masses comes anywhere near as close.

      • They certainly don’t come within 350 NM, although they do have islands that nudge up to around 84 N. Greenland is closer, but again not within 350 NM.

        My suggestion for the Conservatives is that they redefine “north pole” in the world’s lexicon so that it doesn’t describe the axis of the rotation of the Earth anymore, but rather describes the location of the lunch cafeteria at Alert. Problem solved!

    • The 200 mile EEZ was established by the LOS Convention just as were the provisions for the shelf to extend beyond the EEZ if the geology justified it. The 350 nautical mile limit applies to marine ridges, but the argument made by Russia and Canada (and probably Denmark) is that the Lomonosov Ridge is continental material that was split away from the shelf of Europe and Greenland by the extension of the mid-ocean ridge into the Arctic. If core samples demonstrate that the seabed along the Lomonosov Ridge is continental in nature, then the outer limit is only subject to a distance and sediment depth text and not the 350 nautical mile limit.

      • I think you are misreading 76. (5):

        The fixed points comprising the line of the outer limits of the continental shelf on the seabed, drawn in accordance with paragraph 4 (a)(i) and (ii), either shall not exceed 350 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured or shall not exceed 100 nautical miles from the 2,500 metre isobath, which is a line connecting the depth of 2,500 metres.

        The “baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured” is the low-water mark along the coast for the territory, not the base of the continental slope. That’s laid out in Section 2, articles 3 and 5.

  9. This actually happened before, back in the 50′s/60′s when the States(Eisenhower,…) threatened us, by warning Canada to either “USE the Arctic, or LOSE the Arctic !”
    And there was no “UN” to take our side, and Trudeau knew it.
    Well, Trudeau did the former, and much more, in many respects, and we were safe for many, many years, and he did it WITHOUT a huge military presence.

    However, since then, 2 “dormant” idiotic Conservative lead puppets, and their gov’ts, namely “MulRooney The Loonie”, and now his compatriot “Harpo”, have done literally “sqaut” about anything north of the NWT borders’ ???

    Ha ha ha.
    Well, no wonder, even the “States” are laughing now, at our much too long complacense.
    But that’s ok, Stephanie has a plan: “…crawl on knees to Putin for a “long” talk…” ;)

  10. Russia has been building its northern forces for some time, and is way ahead in the Arctic arms race. The best option would be for Canada, the US and the other Arctic Council members to advocate the creation of an Arctic Nature Reserve (where no military activity or resource extraction is permitted) under the auspices of the UN. See e-thriller ARCTIC MELTDOWN (available on Amazon, http://www.smashwords.com, iBooks etc.) for how this might all pan out…

    • The UN will NOT defend land rights’ believe it or not, what they will defend is “people” rights” on “their” own land, as long as “they” live on it.
      Trust me there’s a big difference, as well as like you said “conservation”,…, nobody even heard of “Eskimo” until Trudeau made it a household word, be it, “protection of Native Eskimo/Indian land, fishing, rights’,…” blah, blah, hey, whatever ! it worked before elegantly, amogst other things like NATO, allowing American Nuclear Subs free patrol over the our Arctic -whatever got the “JOB” done -bottom line.
      Today’s climate is much different though, -there is NO political cold-war climate between Russia/America, or, if there is, it’s a miniscule fraction of what it used to be, unless of course, you’re talking to some out-patient dementia-driven, and insane old war mongers’. ok.

      In fact, if anything, there is (thankfully) colaberation. Unfortunately, Canada is literally, and geographically in between that !

      mmm, so are we “sandwiched” between both Superpowers who are now friendly (and yet a little bit economically desperate?), -I say, YES, we are, and always have been.
      Or,
      Are we all just neighbors, with friendly little geographical latitudes and longitudes that seperate us from each other,…, ?

      Well of course, we would ALL prefer the latter “fairy tale” existence, however,
      we don’t know right ? + newsworthy facts, such as synonymous with this article are prooving different.

      -Again, this in thanks to a completely “Blind”, and selfishly “Ignorant” Con Gov’t, that has been oblivious to anything, except of course their “pipeline” pet-peeve projects.
      -sad, or scared now ?

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