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Arcitc Yearbook 2012
currently possible only in ice-free seas, which tend to be located at relatively lower latitudes along
coastlines. Thus, territorial coastal waters (such as the straits of the Canadian Archipelago and
Russia’s Vilkitsky strait) are necessary through-points for shipping along established routes such as
the Northwest Passage (NWP) and Northern Sea Route (NSR). Vessels may only avail themselves of
these routes under the right of innocent passage, which allows legal transit only in an “expeditious
and continuous manner,” which is not “prejudicial to the peace, good order or the security” of the
coastal state (UNCLOS, 1982).
This necessity of travel close to (if not directly through) territorial waters increases the likelihood of a
foreign vessel entering an area unpatrolled by state authorities (such as the Coast Guard)—a scenario
any state government would prefer to avoid. Alexander Sharavin, head of Russia’s Institute of
Political and Military analysis, justifies the need for special forces in Russia’s Arctic: “because we
have thousands of kilometers of border [passing] through the Arctic Ocean. This huge space is not
generally covered up with anything [or] anybody” (Bennett, 2011). Canada’s long-standing dispute
with the U.S. and EU over whether the NWP constitutes internal waters or an international strait is
in part generated by anxiety over unmonitored foreign vessels entering territorial space. This anxiety
was brought into sharp focus in 1999 when the Chinese vessel
arrived in the Beaufort Sea
undetected, raising questions about whether foreign exploitation of Canadian resources could occur
without state knowledge (Lasserre, 2010). Recent and projected increases in the volume of Arctic
maritime traffic raise the chance of intrusion further: destinational transport driven by resource
development, community resupply, and tourism is expected to increase significantly over the next
decade. By 2020, it is projected that annual demand for resupply operations in Canada alone will
exceed the capacity of the current fleet (AMSA, 2009).
That states have begun to increase their Arctic military presence and rhetoric following reports of
dramatic sea ice recession (NSIDC, 2007) is not mere coincidence. A recent Russian plan for
developing the Arctic asserted that “it cannot be ruled out that the battle for raw materials will be
waged with military means” (Borgerson, 2009). Others are even more blunt: Konstantin Simonov,
Director of the National Energy Security Fund in Russia, predicted a military clash between Russia
and NATO forces in the next 20 years (Solozobov, 2009). In diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks
in May 2011, Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitriy Rogozin asserted that “the 21
century will see
a fight for resources, and Russia should not be defeated in this fight” (Jones and Watts, 2011). States
have backed up such rhetoric with military exercises and policy initiatives. Russia’s Arctic Strategy