Competition heats up in the melting Arctic, and the US isn’t prepared to counter Russia
Competition is heating up as Arctic opens, with Russia pursuing an aggressive approach with its icebreaker fleets and territorial claims. The author argues that the U.S. needs to rethink its Arctic policy to be able to effectively challenge Russia, including by ratifying the Law of the Sea convention.
Another strategy that could boost U.S. influence in the Arctic, buffer looming conflicts, and help clarify seabed claims would be for the Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Law of the Sea took effect in 1994 and established rules for how the oceans and ocean resources are used and shared. That includes determining how countries can claim parts of the seabed. The U.S. initially objected over a section that limited deep seabed mining, but that section was amended to alleviate some of those concerns. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all urged the Senate to ratify it, but that still has not happened.
Ratification would give the U.S. a stronger international legal position in contested waters. It also would enable the U.S. to claim more than 386,000 square miles – an area twice the size of California – of Arctic seabed along its extended continental shelf and fend off any other country’s overlapping claims to that area.
Without ratification, the U.S. will be forced to rely on customary international law to pursue any maritime claims, which weakens its international legal position in contested waters, including the Arctic and the South China Sea.
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.Related Quotes:
Parent Arguments:Supporting Arguments:
- U.S. is being left behind in race for the Arctic as a non-party to UNCLOS
- U.S. has limited time to ratify convention to secure access to Arctic resources
- U.S. national interest harmed by remaining outside UNCLOS regime and unable to take advantage of Arctic boom
- U.S. should make ratification of UNCLOS a top priority to ensure it doesn't lose out on opening of Arctic
- ... and 36 more quote(s)
- U.S. has significant interests in untapped mineral wealth in Arctic
- Other nations are pursuing Arctic claims to the detriment of the U.S.
- U.S. failure to ratify UNCLOS complicates U.S. naval operations in the Arctic
- UNCLOS is best regime for Arctic Governance
- U.S. can't secure claims to Arctic resources through CLCS as a non-party to UNCLOS
- Russia poses a strategic threat to the U.S. in the Arctic