U.S. rights to develop in the Arctic only come into conflict with Russia and Canada and existing bilateral arrangements are sufficient to manage these disputes
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What of the Arctic? A 2011 Bloomberg BusinessWeek editorial argued:
“The U.S. continental shelf off Alaska extends more than 600 miles into the Arctic Ocean. American companies have been reluctant to invest in exploiting this underwater terrain, which contains vast untapped reserves of oil and natural gas. That’s because the U.S., as a nonparticipant in the sea convention, has no standing to defend its ownership of any treasures that are found there.”32
Yet this is exactly the same case as in the Gulf of Mexico. Only three nations contest the ownership of resources in the extended North American continental shelf in the Arctic: the United States, Canada and Russia. American relations with Canada are friendly; therefore, a United States-Mexico-style treaty with Canada demarcating appropriate lines north of Alaska should be relatively easy to achieve. Russia might be perceived as a more intractable problem; but a 1990 treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union defines the maritime boundary between the two powers.33
Under the Treaty, Russia has claimed vast areas beneath the Arctic Ocean, but these claims in no way infringe upon the 1990 Treaty. Actually, they are a challenge to Canada rather than the United States. South of the Arctic Ocean, the treaty line protects U.S. claims to large areas of extended continental shelf in the Bering Sea and in the Pacific Ocean southwest of the Alaskan Aleutian Islands. Accordingly, there is no barrier (barring the low one of a necessity to negotiate a treaty with Canada) to the United States developing the extended continental shelf in the Arctic and its environs in the same way it has in the Western Gap.
The U.S. can exercise its rights under the 1958 Convention on the High Seas to assert that it is permitted to mine and navigate in its Extended Continental Shelf. Ratifying UNCLOS would constrict the ability of the U.S. to respond to challenges to these rights by forcing all further negotiation to occur through the CLCS.
The United States can successfully pursue its national interests regarding its extended continental shelf by negotiating on a bilateral basis with nations with which it shares maritime borders to delimit and mutually recognize each other’s maritime and ECS boundaries.