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Are Putin, Russia, After the North Pole? Watch Out Santa!

North Pole
(Photo by David Cheskin/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Prior to his annexation of Ukraine’s Peninsula,  Russian President Vladimir Putin received another big chunk of the world, but few probably heard about it.

3 days before the Ukraine and Crimea incident grabbed world headlines, a United Nations Commission granted Russia “ownership” of a 20,000 square mile parcel of what were formerly international waters in the Sea of Okhotsk.  It’s located off Russia’s Southeastern corner, near Japan.  The U.N. Commission ruled it belongs to Russia, because it’s part of the country’s continental shelf.

The Russian Energy Minister called this new acquisition a “real Ali-Baba’s cave” because of it’s vast natural resources.  He said it took many years for Russia to achieve this success; the same logic Putin is applying to Crimea-Ukraine.

But it doesn’t stop there.   Now,  some world leaders and officials fear Putin may start putting forth increasing claims on Russia’s Northern Tier, perhaps including the North Pole!

Nobody “owns” the Pole,  it’s governed by a five-nation panel including Russia, Canada, the United States by way of Alaska, and Norway and Denmark by way of Greenland.  These nations have agreed to oversee the area.   Nobody has laid claim to the area’s vast natural resources however.  The North Pole area is believed to contain 15% of the worlds oil supplies and 1/3rd of it’s untapped natural gas.

While several nations have half-heartedly laid claims to parts of the Arctic region, they have been rebuffed by the five-nation council and the U.N.

But this week these countries, known as the Arctic Council, are meeting in Yellowknife, the capitol city of Canada’s Northwest Territories.   According to the National Journal,  Russia’s recent geo-political movements and statements have many believing they may very well start to flex their muscle and try to claim larger areas of the Arctic – including the North Pole!

Russian territory accounts for about half of what is considered the Arctic, and with decreases in the polar ice cap,  more open water means more international shipping and traffic – and involvement. You may remember when Russian international explorers reached the North Pole seabed in 2007, they stuck a Russian flag in it.  Russia also refused to allow logistical support to a French team that year seeking to explore the region, delaying their progress by two weeks. (Unlike Antarctica, the North Pole doesn’t have a land mass,  It’s just a huge floating polar ice cap).

International officials say Russia is willing to risk political isolation to preserve it’s domestic influence. Sending troops into Crimea and Ukraine (basically annexing it) is an example.   Putin and Russian leaders mocked Obama’s feeble threats, and did it anyway.

It’s this aggressive behavior since he came into office that has officials watching very carefully this week during the Arctic Conference meetings what the Russians say about who “owns” the North Pole.

Wonder how Santa would look wearing a Russian fur hat?

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