A global rush towards utilization of resources in the Arctic has sparked tensions among international superpowers. Fortunately, its unlikely that anything will escalate beyond ‘tension,’ as the costs of conflict among developed nations far exceeds the value of Arctic resources. However, that doesn’t mean that each nation won’t struggle to get the best deal available, including the United States:
The Svalbard archipelago, north-west of Norway, is already covered by an international treaty signed in 1920. But that does still not stop friends like Britain and Norway having disagreements over the way the treaty has been interpreted.
Norway has been given sovereignty and responsibility for administering the fishing rights and safeguarding the environment.
But it is also meant to give other signatories to the treaty – Russia, the US, China and the UK – equal rights to exploit Svalbard’s natural resources four miles onto the continental shelf. The problem is that Norway does not regard the archipelago as having its own shelf, leaving scope for conflict. A major oil discovery off Svalbard would undoubtedly trigger a row.
Meanwhile the US and Russia still have a disagreement over the exact maritime border from the Bering Sea into the Arctic Ocean. A deal was signed with the then-USSR, but Russia has refused to ratify it.
Unfortunately, oil and gas drilling has been largely prohibited in most parts of the Bering Sea (Bristol Bay) up to this point, in attempt to balance local economic interests with the vast reserves of other resources in the area. Other nations are moving ahead with plans to drill in different parts of the Arctic, while even non-sensitive areas of the Arctic such as the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are still effectively shut off to mineral exploration