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The Shape of Things to Come: The Russian Federation and the Northern Sea Route in 2011

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AbstractThe Arctic has recently been catapulted from the back burner of international attention to the forefront of the global agenda. The dissolution of the Soviet Union as well as climate change seem to be responsible for a marked heating up not only of its physical environment, but also of the political tensions concerning the exact legal regime to be applied there. While the universal 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea has been accepted by the five Arctic rim countries as the applicable legal framework, on the regional level these same states have tried to ward off possible external interference as much as possible by means of the Ilulissat Declaration of 2008. Shipping has been at the heart of these developments, especially in view of the fact that the year 2007 was characterized by the most extensive summer melt ever since satellite measurements started in 1979, which in turn undoubtedly enhanced the attractiveness of Arctic navigation. It will be argued that the increased interest in promoting Arctic navigation, as evidenced by a thorough analysis of the 2011 shipping season along the Eurasian continent, stands in stark contrast with the applicable Russian legal framework, which in essence dates back to the 1990s, a time when this route had not yet been used for international commercial trade linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (the secrecy still surrounding the icebreaking fees at present being a case in point).

Affiliations: 1: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (V.U.B.)Pleinlaan 2, B-1050,


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