Russian Bering Sea Marine Border Issues

Topics: Soviet Union, Russia, United States Pages: 7 (2322 words) Published: December 15, 2010
Geopolitics of Oceans
Read through the attached case study, which outlines the marine border dispute between the USA and Russia in the Bering Sea. Summarise the main points of the case study, making sure you include the following:

* What factor(s) led to the initial dispute?
* Which resources are at the centre of the dispute?
* What agreements have been made between the two nations in relation to rights of use in the Bering Sea? * What is the current situation and how could the conflict be resolved?

Russian Bering Sea Marine Border Dispute: Conflict over Strategic Assets, Fisheries and Energy Resources Vlad M. Kaczynski, Warsaw School of Economics*
Despite the universal implementation of the Law of the Sea principles in defining national sovereignty over coastal waters and the end of the Cold War, Russia continues to press marine border disputes with several neighboring countries. The most important conflicts are with the United States, Norway, and Japan. Fortunately, these are not military confrontations, but political disputes over the economically and strategically important marine regions claimed by all four countries. At stake are strategic considerations, abundant fish resources and large oil and gas deposits at the bottom of the sea. This article discusses the history of the US-Russian conflict, the viewpoints of both sides, and the impact of this dispute on access to marine living resources of the area. Historical Overview

In 1867 the United States purchased the territory of Alaska, acquiring nearly 600,000 square miles of new territory. The land was purchased for $7.2 million or approximately 2 cents per acre. The purchase agreement defined a marine boundary between Russia and the newly acquired US territory. This boundary was readdressed in a 1990 treaty, commonly known as the Baker-Shevardnadze Agreement, between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). With the collapse of the USSR, the Russian government has taken the position that the Baker-Shevardnadze Agreement was invalid since USSR Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze did not effectively represent Russian interests. Consequently, Russia refused to ratify the agreement, thus placing the United States in the position of negotiating in order to seek a modified treaty. One of Russia’s key demands in revising the treaty is its desire to secure cross-border fi shery quotas for its vessels, particularly gaining access to Alaska’s Pollock stocks. However, the US ultimately rejected this Russian request. From the Russian perspective, there is no definitive agreement defining the marine border between the two countries although international law favors the US position. Absent ratification of the 1990 agreement or other arrangements, this conflict in the Bering Sea will continue. Russian–American Dispute over the Bering Sea Marine Boundary Line When the United States purchased Alaska from the Russian government, mutually accepted marine claims were limited to a narrow band of the coastal zone. However, the 1867 Treaty contained language which defined a boundary between the two nations through the Bering Sea. Over time, and in particular when the Law of the Sea principles started to govern the world’s oceans, the 1867 Treaty line became the most contentious marine boundary in the world. Unfortunately, the language of the purchase agreement between Russia and the US is silent on the type of line, map projection and horizontal datum used to depict this boundary. Further, neither country has produced the original or other authenticated maps used during the negotiations to resolve the issue. Differences in defining this line fuel the continuing conflict. Cartographers normally use two types of lines to delineate marine boundaries. These are rhomb lines and geodetic lines (also known as great circle arcs) that are used on two common map projections, Mercator and conical. Depending on the type of line and map...
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