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Russia planting flag at North Pole cuts no ice
By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published August 5, 2007
The Russians apparently want to start a Really Cold War. A Russian expedition team descended under the North Pole Thursday and planted a flag on the seabed 2 miles beneath the arctic ice cap. Russia certainly succeeded in dramatizing its claim to potential oil and other resources on the ocean floor. But the stunt was meaningless theater and comical for a nation with such a brutal history of flouting territorial law.
Five countries that extend into the arctic - Russia, Canada, the United States, Norway and Denmark, through its territory, Greenland - have rights to claim what could be valuable resources under the polar cap. Russia's dive, in two minisubmarines, was designed to put pressure on an international commission to recognize Russia's territorial claim. Moscow contends that an underwater ridge extending from Russia comprises nearly half the seabed, making the territory Russian property. Planting a flag there does not make it so. The United States and Canada were right to dismiss the event as self-serving and provocative.
The mission itself was risky, especially the ascension of the small submarines. They had to find their way back to a hole on the ice surface. Let Vladimir Putin make what he will of it, but at least Russian scientists celebrated the mission for what it was - a noteworthy technical and technological achievement that settles nothing.