No Armed Conflict Over the Arctic

Experts say a confrontation is just speculation

  Nations are not about to go to war over the Arctic anytime soon, experts say
Over recent years, a war of statements concerning the Arctic region broke out, with numerous countries bordering the area claiming large swaths of it for their own. With the effects of global warming making themselves felt more and more, new shipping lanes are opened in northern waters, and maritime companies and governments want to make the best of this. Still, in spite of so many countries taking a stand on the issue, the possibility of them going to war over it is fairly remote, AlphaGalileo reports.

In addition to control over new and profitable shipping lanes, the Arctic also offers large oil reserves, which companies are eager to explore but cannot touch at this time. Governments have also taken a keen interest in these reserves. Russian authorities are at the forefront of this movement, staking their claims to large swaths of land in the Arctic, and even conducting military exercises in the region to show their strength. Add to the situation the fact that a number of Arctic borders are under dispute, and you could have the recipe for an armed conflict, analysts said last year.

In a new analysis of the situation, Norwegian scientists from the Fridtjof Nansens Institute (FNI) assert that dispassionate diplomacy is a solution far more likely to resolve any potential deadlock than military aggression by one or more countries against others. “Contrary to the general picture drawn by the media and some commentators over the last couple of years, the Arctic region does not suffer under a state of virtual anarchy. The era when states could claim rights to territory and resources by simply planting their flag is long gone,” FNI sea expert and study researcher Oystein Jensen explains.

“The basic fact here is that the Arctic Ocean is an ocean, and as such, regulated by the law of the sea. Previous tendencies to question the legal status of the Arctic Ocean as a sea area – due to it being predominantly ice-covered – stand no chance of being accepted today. At the outset, there is thus no support in international law to treat the waters of the frozen North differently from other maritime spaces,” the scientist adds.

“Notably, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – the relevant legal framework for national legislation in most state-to-state relations today – contains a clause reserved especially to ice-covered waters. The Convention thus leaves little doubt that a broad consensus exists as to the question of the applicability of the law of the sea to all parts of the Arctic Ocean,” Jensen reveals. The researchers focused mostly on Norwegian-Russian relationships and found that, while there were indeed animosities in some regards, there was no chance of armed conflict between the two countries.

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By    4 Jan 2010, 19:01 GMT