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Executive Summary for August 4th

We review the latest Arctic news, including a new record set for the earliest traverse of Canada’s Northwest Passage, concerns that the U.S. may have trouble claiming its share of the Arctic seabed, and a new Russian military strategy for the Arctic.

Published on Aug. 4, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Early Birds

A Finnish icebreaker has set a new record for the earliest crossing of Canada’s Northwest Passage. As reported by the Associated Press, which had a team of journalists on board the vessel, the MSV Nordica travelled 10,000 km (6,214 miles) along the route in 24 days, departing Vancouver on July 5 and reaching Greenland’s capital of Nuuk on July 29.

Previously, the earliest passage had been completed in 2008 by the Canadian icebreaker Louis L. St-Laurent, which traveled in the opposite direction, leaving St. John’s in Newfoundland on July 5 and arriving at the Beaufort Sea off Point Barrow on July 30.

Outside Looking In

The head of the U.S. Coast Guard is warning that his country is jeopardizing its claims to some Arctic offshore oil deposits by failing to sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the U.S. Naval Institute News reports. Without ratifying the 1982 treaty, the U.S. isn’t part of an international process that allows countries to claim a continental shelf that extends beyond the traditional 200-mile limit around their shores.

In recent years, countries like China have explored the Arctic Ocean’s U.S. continental shelf, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. Russia has also made extensive claims to the Arctic seabed. Admiral Paul Zukunft warns that these activities could undermine a future U.S. claim to these areas – and even if the U.S. did ratify the treaty now, it could be too late.

Maritime Mistrust

Russia’s new naval strategy envisions that the country’s control over its Arctic waters will be increasingly challenged by the U.S. and its allies. As the Barents Observer reports, the region’s oil and gas deposits are seen as motivating this outside pressure.

The strategy proposes that Russia continue to build military infrastructure along its Northern Sea Route, to support both civilian and military use. The strategy also sees Russia continuing to invest in its northern fleet, as well as developing new underwater defense systems, such as new sorts of robotic submarine devices.

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