HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY
Who owns the Arctic ?
Two million people live around the ice pack
The land inside the Arctic Circle is far from deserted. There are aplenty of human beings, animals and plants that have learned to live in these harsh climes. Today, nearly 2 million people live permanently inside the Arctic Circle; indeed, Man has lived there since prehistoric times.
Sovereign states in the Arctic
Six countries border the Arctic seas: Canada, the United States, Russia, Iceland, Norway and Denmark via Greenland). There are also two territories there with special status: Svalbard (administered by Norway) and Nunavut (an autonomous territory inhabited by Canada’s Inuit people. Finland and Sweden lie within the Arctic Circle but do not reach the 10°C isotherm.
A coveted ocean of ice
The Arctic Ocean contains great riches, not just fish and crustaceans but also hydrocarbons and coastal mineral ores. Little is known about the extent of these resources, and the harsh climate makes them difficult to exploit, but they are seen as a major geopolitical issue by countries in the zone.
Dividing up the Arctic Ocean
A number of solutions have been proposed for settling the disputes between rival claimants to the Arctic’s spoils: “pie slices” extending national borders right to the Pole; Arctic borders equidistant from coastlines; Exclusive Economic Zones extending out 200 nautical miles from coasts; Canadian Non-Pollution Zone; strategic border between the United States and Russia at the Bering Strait; but there are still a number of major disputes about maritime territory.
Russia, Denmark and Canada are currently trying to prove that their respective continental shelves extend beyond the standard 200-nautical-mile EEZ limit and are demanding that their EEZs be fixed at 350 nautical miles from the coast, as provided for by the international law of the sea.