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Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Sunday Conquest

The Associated Press reports:

A senior Russian general says Russia will conduct military exercises in the Arctic to uphold the country's claim to the region's vast natural resources.

Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, in charge of military training at Russia's Defense Ministry, also said planning for the exercises began after several nations disputed Russia's Arctic claims. "Modern wars are won or lost long before they start," Shamanov told the military daily Krasnaya Zvezda in an interview published Tuesday. He noted that 5,000 U.S. troops were involved in the Northern Edge military exercise in Alaska last month.

Canada and Denmark have also been involved in the race to claim the area's extensive oil and other resources. Russia last August sent two mini-submarines to plant a Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole, staking its claim on an underwater mountain range that is believed to contain huge oil and gas reserves. A U.S. study suggests the area may contain as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas.

After the Russian expedition, Canada vowed to increase its icebreaker fleet and build two new military facilities in the Arctic. The U.S. government also sent an icebreaker for a research expedition. Russian officials say preliminary results on soil core samples gathered by the expedition show that the 1,240-mile Lomonosov Ridge under the Arctic is part of Russia's shelf. More geological tests are planned.

Denmark has also sent scientists to seek evidence that the underwater ridge is attached to its territory of Greenland. The dispute over who controls what in the Arctic has become more heated with growing evidence that global warming is shrinking polar ice, opening up new shipping lanes and resource development possibilities.

Yet in May, representatives from Denmark, Norway, Russia, Canada and the United States met in Ilulissat, 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle, to reaffirm their commitment to international Arctic treaties. Under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, Arctic nations have 10 years after ratification to prove their claims under the largely uncharted polar ice pack. All countries with claims to the Arctic have ratified the treaty, except for the United States.

President Bush has been pushing the Senate to ratify the treaty.

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