Photo: Globe, The North Pole
In the 1920s, each of the five Arctic countries - the USSR, USA, Canada, Norway and Denmark - were allocated a part of the Arctic. The sectors were assigned based on the northern boundary of those countries. All the lands and islands located within each sector, became part of the territory of the neighbouring countries. The Soviet Union, which had the longest coastline, was given the largest sector, nearly one third of the entire area of the Arctic.
Iceland, Sweden and Finland also presented claims to Arctic territory, as the northern boundaries established at the beginning of the last century had become conventional. In addition to this a further 20 countries expressed their willingness to develop deposits on the Arctic shelf. Among them were India, China, South Korea, Brazil, Germany and Japan - countries that cannot be called circumpolar. The reason for the increased interest was undoubtedly due to the oil and gas reserves in the Arctic.
All the major Arctic nations - Canada, USA, Norway, Denmark and Iceland are NATO members. The only Arctic country not in the North Atlantic Alliance is Russia, which, according to forecasts by international experts, will eventually own a huge portion of natural gas reserves in the Arctic. Some of the countries competing for the redistribution of the northern region are not prepared to tolerate this prospect.
Photo: Boulder on Franz Josef Land Island
In the Arctic Ocean Russia owns a series of islands and archipelagoes, among which the two biggest are Kolguev Island, Severnaya Zemlya, Novaya Zemlya, Franz Josef Land, Wrangel Island and the New Siberian Islands. These lands are of great strategic importance, as they have unexplored stores of natural resources and areas that could be used as military bases to provide national security.
In accordance with the Principles of State Policy in the Arctic for the Period up to 2020 and Beyond, the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation includes all or part of the territory of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions, the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Nenets, Yamalo-Nenets and Chukotka Autonomous Regions.
The sectors of the other countries include northern regions of Alaska (USA) and Canada, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and also Greenland (Denmark) and Svalbard (Norway).
Photo: Canadian flag, on the horizon - Toronto
Canada may rightly be considered a powerful Arctic state, as 40% of its territory is located in the Arctic - 3.4 million km². The country has been actively involved in the development of the region's resources and research in the Arctic. The vast hydrocarbon reserves in the region have led to differences between Canada and Denmark, as both countries lay claim to Hans Island located between the islands of Greenland and Ellesmere. The USA, Canada and Russia also intend to defend their interests in this region located at a junction between shelves.
The Svalbard archipelago falls under the northern part of and is the nation’s «trump card», as under the Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 Norway can count on the 200-mile area of water surrounding this archipelago and the continental shelf. In recent years, Norway has been actively expanding its presence around Svalbard and tightening control over the fishing activity of other countries. Between Russia and Norway, there are differences in the regulation of economic activity in the economic zones of Russia, Norway and the fishery protection zone of Svalbard. For each of these zones there are separate (national) fishing rules primarily concerning the technical measures of fishing regulation.
Photo: Snow-capped mountains in Alaska
The US has its most northern state - Alaska, which includes the peninsula of the same name, the Aleutian Islands and a narrow strip along the Pacific coast of Western Canada. As the US ranks last among the countries participating in the redistribution of the Arctic, it is interested in actively funding projects related to the region.
Greenland, the largest island in the world, belongs to Denmark. The northernmost point of the island - Cape Morris Jesup - is the closest point to the North Pole. For this reason Denmark is one of the main contenders for the North Pole. In this regard, Denmark is supported by the European Union, which is interested in Denmark obtaining the largest portion of the Arctic shelf, as it has an agreement with Denmark on a unified maritime policy. This enables EU countries to freely use the resources of the Arctic.
Almost the whole territory of Iceland is part of the Arctic, the capital of this country is the northernmost capital in the world. In the battle for the Arctic Iceland is a clear outsider, but it is actively trying to claim its right to part of the Arctic shelf and hopes to enrich its oil reserves with its resources.
Photo: A meeting of the Arctic Council
The legal regime of the United Nations Sea Convention of 1982 is in effect in the Arctic today. Its principles are currently accepted by all countries bordering the Arctic - Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada and the United States, although America has not ratified the convention. The document is based on the concept of an exclusive economic zone, the boundaries of which end at a distance of 200 nautical miles from the coastline. However, the distance can be increased to up to 350 nautical miles, if geological studies prove that the country's continental shelf extends beyond the 200-mile border zone.
The Arctic Council was established in 1996. The main objective of the Council is to promote cooperation in environmental protection and ensure the sustainable development of the polar regions. The declaration on its establishment was signed in Ottawa by representatives of 8 Arctic countries: Denmark, USA, Russia, Canada, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland.