When it comes to expanding his country's geographic boundaries, Russian President Vladimir Putin has more tricks up his sleeve than just invading his neighbors and illegally annexing their territory. In a submission to the United Nations, the Russian Federation is now claiming that it has the right to exert economic control over nearly half a million square miles of the Arctic Ocean, including the North Pole.
The approximately 460,000 square miles that Russia is claiming contains some of the world's largest untapped reserves of fossil fuels, as well as valuable minerals. It also contains a potentially important northern shipping route that has been slowly opening up as Arctic Ice melts due to global climate change.
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Russia is making its claim under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which dictates just how far from its recognized borders a country is entitled to an exclusive economic zone. The convention allows for a 200-mile zone from recognized borders, except where a country can demonstrate that the continental shelf on which it sits actually extends farther then 200 miles. In such cases, the law recognizes a 350-mile limit.
However, Russia is claiming considerably more than that, on the grounds that the resources under the Arctic Ocean are "natural components" of the territory it already controls.