Prospects for interstate conflict over oil and gas reserves in Arctic remains remote
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The main economic prizes in the Arctic are oil and gas and mineral resources. The primary reserves belong to Russia, and the major exploration activity also is theirs. Recent estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey are that 30% of the remaining world reserves of natural gas and some 10% of the oil are in the Arctic. To date, unresolved issues involving demarcation of sea beds under the UNCLOS are not a major issue in the pace of energy development; rather, the key factors are costs of development and the price cycle of oil and gas. Offshore projects are the most costly and environmentally dangerous, and most of the known reserves of oil and gas are within national Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), which extend 200 nautical miles from the coastline. Thus, immediate prospects for interstate conflict over oil and gas reserves appear small.
Despite the rhetoric, disputes over Arctic resources are unlikely to devolve into conflict as states have to date been operating in a cooperative manner and there are sufficient international forums and structures (including UNCLOS) in place to manage disputes if they should occur.