Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Filling The Gap

We recently wrote about how the Arctic is rapidly becoming one of those areas to watch in geopolitics (see post). Within the context of the Arctic, there is an unresolved issue regarding who exactly owns and controls the area north of Alaska, Canada, and Russia (the'Gap'). As this is an area crucial to the two key shipping lanes, and one which contains a good deal of readily available energy deposits, we can expect the resolution of this issue to attain a certain degree of importance.

What is interesting is that there is a framework to resolve these issues - the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (see background article). Unfortunately, the US has yet to ratify the Convention - allegedly on doctrinaire grounds - which means that the other Arctic powers are carving up the territory without the participation of the US.

This is now likely to be something of a test for President Obama. Can he deliver multilateralism? Can he deliver the rule of international law? Is he willing to protect US interests in the face of right-wing obstruction at home? A thoughtful article in Foreign Policy provides some insight onto these questions (see article).

The warning is there to see. The UN will provide the legitimacy for the Convention, and if the US is not at the table, it will have to accept laws made by others. It would be a shame if the right in the US were to make the Arctic a Russian lake by obstructing a process that could be used to restrain Russia.

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