Back in 1969, the United States won the space race against the Soviet Union by planting the U.S. flag on the moon. This Thursday, Russia is expected to win the race to claim much of the oil and gas deposits of the Arctic Ocean by sinking its flag to the seafloor beneath the North Pole.
A Russian icebreaker has already broken through ice sheets and cleared a path to the North Pole. Thursday morning, two submarines will dive more than 13,200 feet and drop a capsule containing the Russian flag. The symbolic act seems aimed at strengthening Russia's legal claims to the estimated 10 billion tons of oil and gas deposits that are in a 460,000-square-mile region of the Arctic shelf.
Four other countries — Canada, the United States, Norway, and Denmark — have claimed land inside the Arctic Circle. International law lets them claim only up to 200 miles from their coastlines for economic activity. Russia, however, has been claiming a larger area that reaches the North Pole by saying that Siberia and the Arctic seabed are on the same continental shelf.
If the flag drop succeeds, it will be a small step for submarine pilots, and a giant leap for Russia … into a territorial dispute.
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