Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lavrov and Clinton to coordinate joint Russian-US Presidential Commission

The Barents Observer reported July 6, 2009, on the joint commission created by Presidents Medvedev and Obama as part of the latter’s visit this week to the Russian Federation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will serve as Commission Coordinators, overseeing its 13 working groups. While the Arctic was not named specifically in either the Kremlin or White House Fact Sheets about the Commission, at least two working groups have the potential to address issues relevant to  arctic mapping and scientific cooperation.  The Energy and Environment Working Group will be headed by Sergei I. Shmatko, Minister of Energy, and Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, and the Science and Technologies Working Group by Andrei A. Fursenko, Minister of Education and Science, and John Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy. Mention of the Arctic was also notably absent from yesterday’s joint Medvedev-Obama Press Conference.

Given both countries’ emphases on the importance of scientific cooperation and/or continental shelf mapping in recent statements relevant to their respective interests in the Arctic  (the United States Arctic Region Policy of January 2009, "The fundamentals of Russian state policy in the Arctic up to 2020 and beyond"and the Russian Maritime Strategy, anticipated this summer), it is to be hoped that the Lavrov-Clinton Commission will also lead to new opportunities for scientists from both countries working together in the Arctic.

Update July 8:  In keeping with last week's entry, the Center for American Progress has pointed out that, contrary to misguided "land grab" perceptions, Russia is following agreed legal procedures in pursuing its continental shelf claims. The Center also integrates bilateral cooperation in the Arctic into its proposed new agenda and strategy for United States relations with the Russian Federation.

Also of note this week:

Also this week, USCGC HEALY embarked Seattle for the Arctic Ocean.  You can follow the ship’s missions for the rest of Summer 2009 as it supports such research as deployment of oceanographic moorings and whale hydrophones (0904), and continental shelf mapping with the Canadian Coast Guard’s Louis St. Laurent (0905).  As part of its Arctic West Summer cruise, the HEALY has already completed 2009 projects on the Bering Ecosystem.

On an (admittedly) unrelated but timely note about scientists in the Arctic, your blogger begs her readers’ indulgence in pointing them to a recent arctic tribute  from researchers at Toolik Lake Field Station to a cultural icon, as well as information about GIS and other projects at this University of Alaska-Fairbanks research station.

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.