In August 2007, Russian scientists descended 4,261 meters (13,976 feet) beneath sea level at the North Pole, using two dual-manned submers- ibles, Mir-1 and Mir-2.18 The mission had two purposes: first, to collect samples of soil from the seabed directly beneath the North Pole, which is within the claims that Russia submitted to the commission and along the Lomonosov Ridge; and second, to place a one meter tall titanium Russian Federation flag, creating nationalist symbolism behind Russia’s claim and reinforcing its dedication to being a major power, both scientifically and economically, in the Arctic region.
Because of the suddenness of the claim by Russia, four other countries with a potential stake (Denmark, Norway, the United States, and Canada), and one without a stake (Japan), have submitted written responses to the Commission. Denmark and Canada have both refused to offer an opinion immediately after Russia’s submission, citing the necessity of additional and more specific data.19 The remaining countries, the United States, Norway, and Japan,20 have offered negative responses. Norway, having submitted a claim in November 2006 (beyond their 200 nautical mile EEZ) that does not overlap with Russia’s claim, was most concerned with overlapping claims along mutual borders, a “maritime dispute” that has not yet been settled and which could be problematic for both countries.21 The United States submitted a detailed response, using scientific data to support a position that neither the Alpha-Mendeleev or the Lomonosov Ridges are part of any state’s continental shelf, but are rather independent features consisting of magma or freestanding formations. The official U.S. position advised:
The integrity of the Convention and the process for establishing the outer limit of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles ultimately depends on adherence to legal criteria and whether the geological criteria and interpretations applied are accepted as valid by the weight of informed scientific opinion. A broad scientific consensus of the relevant experts... is critical to the credibility of the Commission and the Convention.22
This statement suggests that the United States would like the convention and commission to look strongly and carefully at the evidence presented by Russia before determining any course of action. It also indicates that the United States is first deferring to the standards established in UNCLOS for dispute settlement, despite not being a signatory to the agreement.