Can Russia “Discover” the Arctic Sea?
Russia has been busily working to take possession of half of the Arctic Sea (or at least the seabeds under half of the Arctic Sea). In a dramatic mission covered heavily by Russian television, the Russian government has planted a titanium Russian flag on the seabed underneath the Arctic Sea. (I’m still looking for photos of the flag on the seabed. If anyone has a link, please pass it along. UPDATE: a commenter helpfully provides a link to a picture here). For a good map of the different national claims on the Arctic, see this graphic here.
Duncan is the blog’s expert on this stuff and Eric Posner has a piece in today’s WSJ analyzing related issues as well, but as I understand it, planting a flag is only a legally significant act under international law when a country is claiming the “right of discovery.” I don’t think Russia is claiming that it “discovered” the Arctic seabed or that the seabed is “terra nullius”) (see Duncan’s post here for a primer on this issue). Rather, it is supposed to be establishing that the seabed is connected to its continental shelf, and hence, part of Russia. Putting the flag down doesn’t provide evidence of such a connection. But you have to admit, it’s kinda cool.