Thawfare in the Arctic

After “lawfare,” it’s time to add “thawfare” to the lexicon of how to pursue politics by other means (especially since a quick Google scan indicates that I have indeed coined this neologism):

Russia will invest some 1.5 billion rubles ($49.7 million) indefining the extent of its continental shelf in the Arctic in 2010, inorder to prove its right to more of the Arctic floor, the country’sNatural Resources Ministry has said.

“These funds will be spent on additional hydrographic andgeophysical research in the Arctic Ocean,” the ministry said in astatement.

For more background on what’s at stake in the Arctic as it melts, see Katie Drummond’s WPR briefing on the Pentagon’s New Arctic Map, as well as Caitlyn Antrim’s WPR feature on Russia and the Changing Geopolitics of the Arctic. Antrim’s article, in particular, illustrates how despite the focus on the underwater resources at stake, the Arctic thaw will also dramatically impact Russia’s ability to extract Siberian resources through a navigable northern sea route.

Another significant aspect here is the use of established multilateral legal channels, in this case the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, to determine claims and resolve disputes. Yet another case of “resource wars” losing out to “resource litigation.”

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