Accession to UNCLOS would allow US to better support its protests against intelligence collection within our territorial waters
[ Page 579-580 ]
In the mid-1980s the Soviets had drawn a system of straight baselines in the Arctic Ocean. Segment 8-9 is a twenty-six mile line that enclosed Motovsky and Kola Bays. According to the military experts writing in press and magazine accounts, on February 11, 1992, USS Baton Rouge was lurking in what it thought to be international waters when it and a Sierra-class Russian submarine collided.25 In the ensuing diplomatic dispute, the U.S. Navy claimed that the collision occurred more than twelve miles from the "normal baseline," the shoreline, which placed it well within international waters. However, Russia claimed that the U.S. submarine was operating illegally while submerged within its territorial sea as measured from their claimed straight baseline.
Years later, when another Russian submarine, Kursk, sank under mysterious circumstances in the same general area, the Russian Navy immediately claimed that it was the fault of the United States, which had intelligence gathering submarines in the area monitoring the Russian exercises.26 If the United States and Russia were both Party to the Convention, we would likely be able to resolve the legality of this particular baseline segment and avoid such potential incendiary incidents. We continue to have similar disputes concerning excessive straight baseline claims with many other countries all over the world, including China, Iran, Colombia, and Vietnam.
Opponents of U.S. ratification of UNCLOS have argued that U.S. intelligence operations will be complicated by UNCLOS because it will prevent U.S. submarines from gathering intelligence in territorial waters. However, these operations are already regulated by the existing 1958 convention which the U.S. ratified and expects other nations to abide by. Furthermore, the intelligence community has reviewed the treaty and concluded that it was still in U.S. interests to ratify the treaty.