Russian Federation Rejects U.S. Extended Continental Shelf

United States Military Academy and American Military University Alumni. Victor covers flash military, intelligence, and geo-political updates.

More From Me

According to Russian state-owned media, the Russian Foreign Ministry delivered a demarche to the United States and protested to the Council of the International Seabed Authority which is currently being hosted in Kingston, Jamaica over the U.S. announcement of its Extended Continental Shelf claim. This represents the first true legal battle of Arctic demarcations after the United States and the Russian Federation launched their 21st century Arctic strategies. The announcement reads below:

“During the session, the Russian delegation announced the non-recognition of the unilaterally declared by the United States in December 2023 of the external borders of the continental shelf outside 200 nautical miles from the baselines, from which the width of the territorial sea is measured, in seven regions of the world ocean… Earlier, the American side was sent a corresponding demarche on the bilateral line…U.S. unilateral steps do not comply with the rules and procedures established by international law.”

The U.S. Claim 

The United States Department of State, in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), conducted a nearly 20 year study analyzing the U.S. seabed under the United States Extended Continental Shelf Project. They published their findings in December 2023 which recommended the designation of hundreds of thousands of square nautical miles of seabed as part of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf. However, the findings on additional territory is most rife in the Arctic, where a distance of 350 nautical miles (in the east) and more than 680 nautical miles (in the west) from the territorial sea baselines of the United States has been extended. While the Russian Foreign Ministry did reject the entire proposal, it is almost certainly the Arctic territory which drew most concern from Moscow.

Credit: Department of State

What is an Extended Continental Shelf?

Under the current United Nations-adopted Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which the United States is not a party to, every coastal nation has a 3-12NM territorial waters and 200NM Exclusive Economic Zone designation. However language in the charter established the possibility for nations to appeal for an Extended Continental Shelf depending on the bathymetry and geological data. An ECS gives the claimant exclusive access to the natural resources contained on the ocean floor, not the waters above it. An ECS is defined as sedimentary deposits and bedrock that exist near the continental shelf in the coastal regions before large drop offs which usually define deep ocean areas and international waters.

Credit: Congressional Research Service

Appealing to a Treaty the U.S. is Not Party To

The United States Department of State expressed interest in the Arctic region due to its immense natural resources such as crab and natural gas. However, it is important to note that the United States has not ratified the UNCLOS due to sovereignty concerns especially in Part XI which is favorable to “non free market” nations, a reference to the Soviet Union. Strict environmental restrictions with regards to natural resource cultivation also convinced American conservatives to block the ratification. The U.S. State Department hopes that submitting this ECS case will act as an incentive to convince the Congress to ratify the UNCLOS to increase the legitimacy of the U.S.’ claims. However, the U.S. State Department does not view its status in the UNCLOS as a roadblock to submitting an ECS case because the U.S. accepts the treaty as “customary international law” and has made a concerted effort to enforce the provisions of international boundaries outlined above.