THE asssumption, at least is sci-fi circles, has been that when man had exhausted his energies in war on land hostilities would move to outer space. Now another possibility has presented itself: future wars, or at least threats of them, may take place in the darkest depths of the sea beneath the Arctic Circle. Russia's audacious expedition this week to plant the Russian flag on an underwater ridge, which it claims is an extension of Russia's mainland reaching to the North Pole at a depth of more than two miles, may be remembered as the first warning shot in such a future war.

Pausing for a moment to admire the achievement of the Russian scientists and the submarine crews, it is nonetheless necessary to point out that Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States also have established land, or ice, rights in the Arctic Circle, that there is a UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which governs exploitation of the seabed (which Russia but not the United States has ratified), and a UN International Seabed Authority whose headquarters is in Kingston, Jamaica. Russia's bid to annex around 460'000 square miles will not go unchallenged, in the international courts if not in the Arctic depths. At issue, of course, is the belief that beneath these inhospitable waters are to be found rich mineral deposits including oil and gas. The best thing that could happen would be test drillings that disproved the assumption.


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