Staunton, November 28 – Denis Khramov, Russia’s deputy natural resources minister and Moscow’s point man in talks with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, says that, on the basis of new data Russia has supplied, the CLCS has accepted “key parts” of Russia’s claims that have the effect of extending its continental shelf deep into the Arctic (mnr.gov.ru/press/news/denis_khramov_uchastvuet_v_rabote_komissii_oon_po_granitsam_kontinentalnogo_shelfa/).
If true – and the CLCS has not confirmed it – that could lead to the extension of Russia’s territorial waters by as much as 350 nautical miles further into the Arctic and provide support for Moscow’s claims to be the dominant voice on the use of the Northern Sea Route and the exploitation of mineral wealth on the seabed but trigger conflicts with Denmark and Canada.
At the same time, however, such a decision should it be forthcoming would set the stage for conflicts between Russia and two of the other Arctic powers, Denmark and Canada. (The US isn’t involved in these discussions because it is not a member of the Law of the Sea regime on which they are based.)
Khramov says that the CLCS has agreed that the Lomonosov Ridge, the Mendeleyev Ridge, and the Podvodnikov Basin ae natural extensions of the Russian, a position other Arctic powers have contested but for which Moscow has provided fresh evidence on the basis of extensive naval studies this past summer.
“If the Commission decides fully in Russia’s favor,” Atle Staalesen of The Barents Observer says, “the country will be able to claim sovereignty over 1.2 million square kilometers of Arctic sea shelf that extends more than 350 nautical miles (about 650 km) from the shore” (thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2019/11/russia-winning-support-its-claims-arctic-shelf-says-chief-negotiator).
Russia has been pressing for a decision on its claims since December 2001. The CLCS has neither accepted nor rejected them, but the Russian side has been increasingly optimistic that it is going to win out since a meeting of the group last spring (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/04/moscow-close-to-un-recognition-that-its.html).
There is no deadline for a decision, but if Moscow is close to achieving its goal, one could be announced as early as at the start of 2020.