During a conference onboard a nuclear powered icebreaker Russian leaders underline the importance of international cooperation in the Arctic.
"I’m convinced that the Arctic should be an arena for open and equal dialogue based on integral undivided security and a place where there is no room for geopolitical games of military blocks, for behind-the-scenes agreements or for struggles for spheres of influence,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin during his opening speech at an Arctic conference hosted by the Russian Security Council this week.
“Russia is committed to peaceful Arctic exploration while observing its national interests and respecting those of other countries,” Putin added in the speech, quoted by Arctic.ru.
Discussing international cooperation onboard a nuclear icebreaker
Putin’s opening remarks took place during the Russian Security Council’s annual Arctic conference, which includes members from Arctic Council states, observer states and the international scientific community. The conference took place onboard the nuclear powered icebreaker 50 Let Probedy (50 years of victory), which traveled along Russia’s eastern Arctic coast and the Bering Strait, from Anadyr to Pevek.
According to a press release by the Russian Security Council the agenda for the conference includes issues of ensuring security in the Arctic and key issues of political, economic and cultural cooperation between the Arctic states. There was a focus on topics such as international law, transport in the Arctic, international cooperation on environmental security and Arctic tourism.
Artificial dividing lines between Arctic countries
The conference was lead by the Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, who brought attention to the international legal regime in the Arctic during a speech. According to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Patrushev said that “there are no outstanding international legal issues in the Arctic that may be used as a pretext for unilateral actions.” He further underlined that Russia is committed to solving any issues in the region through international law, and that there are no grounds for concern when it comes to territorial claims. “Together we must reject attempts to create artificial dividing lines and escalate tensions around issues that the Arctic powers are willing and able to resolve at existing international venues,” he added.
Overlapping claims in the Arctic Ocean
Russia submitted an application to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf – the legal organ that evaluates claims of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles – for approximately 1.2 million square kilometers of the Arctic Ocean in August 2015. Part of the claim overlaps with Danish and Canadian claims, particularly of the Lomonosov Ridge, which includes an area under the North Pole. However, as Patrushev pointed out in his speech, most of the resources in the Arctic are located within the already settled exclusive economic zones of the Arctic states.
All other Arctic states have also affirmed belief in international law and specifically the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as a framework to resolve possible disputes in the Arctic. In the 2008 Ilulissat Declaration, the five Arctic coastal states reaffirmed their commitment to UNCLOS and to the orderly settlement of any possible overlapping claims in the Arctic Ocean.