Russia just claimed a huge chunk of the Arctic

A crater in Northern Siberia.
A crater in Northern Siberia.
Image: /Vladimir Pushkarev/Russian Reuters/Centre of Arctic Exploration
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Russia believes that it owns 1.2 million sq. kilometers (463,000 sq. miles) of the Arctic. The country has requested that the UN recognize the claim, which it first made in 2002. At the time the UN sent it back, asking for more supporting evidence.

“Ample scientific data collected in years of Arctic research are used to back the Russian claim,” the country’s foreign ministry says in a statement.

Russia and other countries adjacent to the area—the US, Canada, Denmark and Norway—are vying for Arctic territories, which are estimated to contain one-fourth of the world’s reserves of oil and gas. According to United States Geological Survey estimates, the region north of the Arctic circle contains 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.

Last year, the Russian government said the territory it claims could contain 5 billion tons of oil and natural resources. With the Arctic cap melting as a result of climate change, the resources are expected to be increasingly accessible to drilling.

The Arctic Ocean is currently a neutral area, but countries with continental shelfs that extend into the territory can claim parts of it as an exclusive economic zone. In 2007, the Russians dropped a canister with a Russian flag to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, making a symbolic claim to the territory. Earlier this year, the country organized massive Arctic military maneuvers involving thousands of troops, ships, submarines and aircraft.