Staunton, Feb. 20 – The United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UN CLCS) has accepted the evidence Russia has submitted in support of most but not all of Moscow’s claims on the Arctic seabed, a major step forward but not the last word in what has been a dispute that has been ongoing for more than two decades.
On the one hand, the UN CLCS by its decision has acknowledged that it is possible for Arctic powers to use existing technology to provide reasonable claims to the seabed in the north, something that many experts had challenged and that the commission had not made a decision (un.org/depts/los/clcs_new/submissions_files/rus01_rev15/2023RusRev1RecSum.pdf).
That opens the way for Canada, Denmark and Greenland to make similar submissions in the future, something that means a final decision on the Arctic is still years away. (The US is not affected directly because its border with the Russian Federation as far as the Arctic Ocean and its seabed are concerned is defined by a 1990 agreement.)
But on the other hand, by recognizing the authority of Russian claims but not giving Russia all it wants, the UN CLCS decision is likely to be both welcomed in Moscow as a recognition of Russian rights and lead some there to insist that their country has the right to act now lest others intervene against it.
In short, the decision doesn’t end the dispute but may in fact raise the issue to a new level. (For the decision, its background, and possible consequences, see arctictoday.com/russia-gets-approval-for-the-data-behind-much-of-its-arctic-ocean-seabed-claim/, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/08/moscow-plans-new-push-for-un.html, thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2022/12/canada-extends-continental-shelf-claim-increasing-overlaps-russia-arctic and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/11/moscow-should-act-unilaterally-if-un.html.)