December 10, 2013

Canada to claim North Pole. Obama to acquiesce?

This one is tricky. Canada, Russia and the United States have all, at various times laid claim to sections of the Arctic. It's never come to military action, nor will it. However, given apparent Canada's intention to move forward with an effort to look for legal recognition you can expect both Russia and the United States to respond in some fashion.
TORONTO (AP) — Canada plans to make a claim to the North Pole in an effort to assert its sovereignty in the resource-rich Arctic, the country's foreign affairs minister said Monday.

John Baird said the government has asked scientists to work on a future submission to the United Nations claiming that the outer limits of the country's continental shelf include the pole, which so far has been claimed by no one.

Canada last week applied to extend its seabed claims in the Atlantic Ocean, including some preliminary Arctic claims, but it wants more time to prepare a claim that would include the pole.

Asserting Canada's rights in the Arctic has been a popular domestic issue for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, though at least one expert on the issue described the planned claim as a long shot.

"We are determined to ensure that all Canadians benefit from the tremendous resources that are to be found in Canada's far north," Baird said.

Countries including the U.S. and Russia are increasingly looking to the Arctic as a source of natural resources and shipping lanes. The U.S. Geological Survey says the region contains 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of oil. If Canada's claim is accepted by the U.N. commission, it would dramatically grow its share.
Should Canada gain any traction with legal approach, you can expect Russia to respond by ignoring any sovereignty claims from Canada. The Arctic is vast and Canada, even with the intention of upgrading its naval fleet in large part for this specific reason, will not be able to police its claim over the entire territory it lays claims to owning.

The United States is a different story. Previous presidents have (mostly) softly disputed Canada's claims. However, Obama has a history of bending over backwards for other nations, and certainly has a view of the United states as an imperialist power (when it suits him) that requires his restraint to restore the balance to the world. However, he hasn't exactly been friendly with Canada's conservative Prime Minister on issues including for example, the Keystone XL pipeline.

What's a liberal president to do in this situation? Condemn Canada? Condemn the current Prime Minister's approach? Let Russia spoil Canada's claims and try to avoid the issue? I'm not sure anyone has an answer for this liberal president's liberal conundrum.
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