Could this be the basis for a new Cold War? (Thanks, I'll be here all week, remember to tip your waitress….)
A Russian expedition traveled Thursday in a pair of submersibles more than four kilometers under the ice cap and deposited a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole, making a symbolic claim to vast fields of oil and natural gas believed to be beneath the sea north of the Arctic Circle.
Inside the first of the minisubmarines to reach the sea floor were two members of Russia's lower house of Parliament, one of whom, Artur Chilingarov, had led the expedition to seek evidence reinforcing Russia's claim over the largely uncharted domain.
That claim, which has no current legal standing, rests on a Russian assertion that the seabed under the pole, called the Lomonosov Ridge, is an extension of Russia's continental shelf, and thus is Russian territory.
Russia submitted its claim in 2001 to an international commission, which has thus far ruled that the available data is not sufficient to support it. But Russia has pressed on.
The day's events underscored both Russia's restored sense of confidence and the international competition for access, influence and extraction rights in the far north, which has intensified as oil and gas prices have surged and as trends in global warming have encouraged speculation that the region could become more navigable and accessible.
Five countries—Canada, Denmark, Norway Russia and the United States—have territory in the Arctic Circle and under international convention have rights to economic zones within 320 kilometers, or 200 miles, of their borders.
Cathy Young wondered last month here at reason why Bush isn't tougher on Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin.
UPDATE: And our own Jesse Walker last week blogged this exact same story! Life is long, memory sometimes too short, and I was away from my computer that day…..