Eyes on the prize: Arctic claims on agenda

On Tuesday St. Petersburg plays host to foreign ministers from Nordic countries to talk about energy, the economy and the environment. The Northern Dimension, a group made up of Russia, Iceland, Norway, and six EU countries will discuss cooperation in tra

The Arctic shelf, which is thought to hold nearly a quarter of the world's untapped energy reserves, has become a bone of contention – albeit a juicy one – among five Arctic circle countries.

Last year, Russia conducted an expedition to the Arctic shelf and placed a titanium flag on the ocean floor in an attempt to claim it as Russian territory. Russia had voiced its intentions to push the issue through the UN but the global financial crisis intervened.

“The financial crisis will make the participants of today’s meeting see the issue of the Arctic from another point of view – not as an issue of political speculation but as a point of real economic interests. In this case it will be clear that only countries which have enough economic and technological resources can claim the Arctic region. Due to lower oil prices the region is considered a point of strategic interest,” said Andrey Reut, economic editor of the Izvestia newspaper.

Other nations see Russia's expedition as a threat to their right to develop energy reserves. In turn, the U.S. sent its largest icebreaker to the area, and Norway promised to build military bases in the far north.

While oil companies battle to develop one of the world's largest untapped energy reserves, the main task for the Northern Dimension conference is to prevent the Arctic shelf from becoming the backdrop to a military flare-up.

Related links

Arctic time bomb set for 2020?

Russia defines its slice of Arctic

Russia plots course in race for the Arctic

Arctic oil rush begins