Arctic Conflict Position Paper
And with the conflicts arising with the Arab states, the importance of the natural resources here will grow in importance economically and scientifically. As of now, the Russian Arctic is of a large economic significance to the Russian Federation, as all the Oil that is being drilled now, accounts for 40% of Russia’s GDP, but at the same time, the Siberia Reserves are slowly drying out, and Oil Giants like Shell are trying their best to penetrate through the economic, environmental, legal, and governmental walls of the Arctic.
Currently, no country governs the Arctic region, but According the UNCLOS, Countries can claim seas 200 miles from their shores, and to extend that, they need to show scientific proof of the seabed being an extension of the continental shelf. There are currently 5 countries present in the Arctic geographically: USA (Alaska), Canada, Denmark, Norway & Russia.
The Arctic region is already buzzing with military activity, as troops from various countries set up camps, battling the harsh cold, whilst the world awaits a new kind of cold war of the 21st century which may occur anytime; As people wait for the opening of the previously inaccessible ice for natural gas, oil, potential hydroelectricity, and economically the strongest, the opening up of sea routes. There is heavy militarisation by the 5 arctic countries as well as the world’s newest superpower: China.
This militarisation involves various icebreakers, highly specialised submarines, and expenditure on more than 2000 troops. With more coming threat to “territorial claims” the Arctic countries toil to keep the land to themselves. With the increased interest by the non-Arctic countries, the expenditure of military increases as well. But the expenditure would be a mole as compared to the mountain of revenue these countries might gain if they start to drill for oil in this frozen runk of riches.
There appears a threat to the flora, fauna and wildlife that resides in the snowy pockets as well. Habitats would be destroyed not only because of the melting of the polar region, but due to increased human intervention in a previously sparsely populated area. Austria being a Part of the EU, has not been able to gain permanent observership in the Arctic Council, and is landlocked; Yet Austria has ratified the UNCLOS.
Austria is not actively involved in Arctic region conflict, but it imports a large amount of fossil fuels and natural gas from the Russian federation. To avoid jeopardizing the current stability of the Arctic, brokering an Arctic Council Security Agreement is perhaps the best way to avoid militarization of the Arctic in the longer-term. The Nations need to cooperate, and avoid a conflict, because this region can help the world’s increasing population with its hunger for petroleum and other resources including metal.
The Arctic council and many other nations, all have a vested interest in a stable Arctic today for economic and security reasons. However, a regional security agreement should be put in place as the Arctic opens to increased exploitation to guarantee stability and security. Therefore, the republic of Austria would like the above changes to take place for a fruitful utilisation of the limited resources available to the world. This is important for the foreseeable future.