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Massive Oil Discovery in Antarctica Raises Concern

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A picture of Antarctica
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Massive Oil Discovery in Antarctica Raises Concern

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Russian research ships have found large gas and oil deposits, estimated to be worth 511 billion barrels of oil, in British Antarctic territory. This discovery, which was presented as evidence to the Commons Ecology Audit Committee, may have significant ramifications for the area and jeopardize the delicate balance of the ecology.

Fears that Moscow may violate a long-standing agreement essential to maintaining peace in the area are being expressed about Russia’s exploration of areas of Antarctica for oil and gas as well as its military surveying of the continent.

About the Antarctic Treaty

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The Antarctic Treaty, signed in Washington on December 1, 1959, established a framework for peaceful coexistence and scientific collaboration on the planet’s largest continent.

By the late 1950s, scientists from twelve different countries were using Antarctica as one of the last unclaimed territories on Earth, so it seemed logical to establish an international treaty to preserve it.

Problems With the Treaty

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The 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which forbids oil exploitation to guarantee the region’s continued existence only for peaceful and scientific reasons, now faces a major test. Although the enormity of this discovery presents serious problems to the treaty’s future integrity, Russia has reaffirmed its commitment to its goals.

The convention’s goal was to prevent international strife from arising from Antarctica and to guarantee that the region would only be used for peaceful purposes.

The Discovery

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According to Russian research ships, the discovery was made and provided as evidence to the Commons Environment Audit Committee.

The largest Russian geological exploration business is owned by the Kremlin Rosgeo, and the committee was evaluating inquiries about oil and gas research on its ships.

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Mistrust and Pledge

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Minister David Rutley reassured members that Russia was engaging in scientific endeavors. Nonetheless, mistrust emerges, as geopolitical specialist Klaus Dodds highlights that the policy milieu in the region is “perhaps the most difficult it has been since the late 1980s and early 1990s,” propelled by wider global strains. 

He provided data to support his claim that Russian actions were more related to gas and oil prospecting than they were to true science. 

Rutley Reports

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David Rutley added in his report to the EAC, “Russia recently reaffirmed its adherence to the treaty’s essential provisions,” explaining that his department had chosen to believe Russian assurances that it was merely doing scientific study.

Contrary to popular belief, experts in the area caution that putting any faith in Russia to fulfill its duties was naïve, as evidenced by its invasion of Ukraine.

Exploration Crisis

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Dodds goes on to say that Russia’s exploration of oil and gas may be viewed as a step towards resource extraction, which would further complicate the geopolitical situation.

This finding amid tense international relations may portend the start of a new phase of resource struggle in Antarctica. The Antarctic Treaty is facing new difficulties, not the least of which is Russia’s dishonest behavior and China’s growing assertiveness.

Worries About the Discovery

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Major environmental worries surround the possibility of drilling in such a pristine region. The drilling may have far-reaching and irreversible effects on Antarctica’s distinct ecosystems and international climate commitments.

This oil discovery could drastically alter the dynamics and markets for energy globally. It might reduce oil costs globally but also make it more difficult for nations to fight climate change and switch to renewable energy sources.

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Antarctic Territory

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With 99 percent of its surface covered in ice, the British Antarctic Territory is the most expansive and southernmost of the United Kingdom’s 14 overseas territories and the least hospitable.

However, in the prehistoric past, it had warmer temperatures and more flora, which would have encouraged the formation of fossil fuel deposits. From the South Pole, it extends northwest, encircling the Antarctic Peninsula and the Weddell Sea.

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Which Country Owns Antarctica?

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Although seven nations are said to have historical territorial claims to Antarctica, the international partnership guarantees that no one nation “owns” the continent.

Since the beginning of missions to investigate the continent, Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom have all maintained territorial claims in Antarctica. The US Department of State reports that most nations, including the US, do not acknowledge these claims.

Russia’s Strategic Plan To Dominate

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Russia’s well-planned actions, both in terms of timing and character, point to a calculated attempt to establish domination over fresh resources. This strategy is not unique; instead, it is part of a larger pattern of Russian behavior in the world arena, which is especially apparent in other areas with abundant natural resources.

Russia intends to demonstrate its resolve to be a key player in geopolitics and global resource management by using its position and might to maintain control over these essential resources.

Conflicts and Assertions of the Territory

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There may be a resurgence of battles over resource and territorial rights in the Antarctic, which countries like Argentina and Chile have claimed in the past.

With the significance of Antarctica’s natural resources becoming increasingly apparent on the international stage, this possible escalation in hostility might further exacerbate the region’s already complicated geopolitical environment.

Territorial Claim on Hold

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Relentless worldwide cooperation is needed to keep Antarctica a place for scientific research and environmental conservation. This oil discovery will put international accords to the test as they compete with the allure of abundant natural resources.

However, according to the treaty, all territorial claims are “frozen,” and no new ones may be made as long as it is in effect.

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