U.S. could send powerful signal of its willingness to cooperate in Arctic by ratifying UNCLOS
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In terms of capabilities, the US is like most Arctic neighbours in not being adequately equipped to optimally operate year-round in an arctic maritime environment. After the events of September 11, 2001 funding for polar research was dramatically cut, and the US was left with only three Arctic-capable icebreakers.61 The disparity between the growing importance of the Arctic and the lack of capability to adequately patrol it has been recognised by the US government.62 The issue evidently has not reached a point yet where significant resources will be diverted to the Arctic at the expense of other priorities. Thus like most Arctic states at the moment, with the possible exception of Russia and to a lesser degree Canada, the US chooses to substitute rhetoric over substance.
From a security perspective, this may in fact be viewed in a positive light. While the US and other Arctic states recognise that access to the region may dramatically increase in coming years, the current reality is that Arctic sea ice will dramatically limit marine traffic and resource exploitation for the immediate future. The longer the sea ice serves as a deterrent for any possible ‘scramble for the Arctic’, the more time is available for stakeholders to use dialogue to diffuse stress points and find compromise positions on contentious issues such as boundary disputes. One such area of friction that the US could eliminate is its non-ratification of UNCLOS. Ratifying the Convention would send a signal to all Arctic and maritime stakeholders that the US is not simply a hegemonic state that abides by only its own rules, but a member of the global community that values and upholds international law.
"The Implications of Ice Melt on Arctic Security
." Defence Studies
. Vol. 11, No. 2 (June 2011): 297-322. [ More (6 quotes) ]
By remaining outside of UNCLOS, the U.S. is ceding its leadership role in the region in a number of ways. First, and most importantly for the U.S. strategic and economic interests, by remaining outside of the treaty the U.S. is not able to submit its claims for the extended continental shelf in the Arctic to the CLCS, preventing U.S. industries from claiming mineral rights. Secondly, existing Arctic governance regimes are based on and rely on UNCLOS and the U.S. non-party status prevents it from contributing as a full partner, weakening the overall Arctic governance regime. Finally, U.S.