Why Denmark Should Own the North Pole Instead of Canada

Source: Dana Wagner, Huffington Post, December 20 (abbreviated)

The North Pole is a single point on the Arctic map that falls in an area claimed by three countries. Directly beneath this spot, below the polar ice, is the Lomonosov Ridge, now at the centre of a land dispute. Canada, Denmark and Russia are jockeying for exclusive jurisdiction of the submerged mountain range, which runs across the Arctic and which Danish scientists claim is connected to Denmark by the Greenland continental shelf.

Whoever owns the pole stands to own the energy and mineral resources around it, and a new strategic waterway (eventually).

Land claims between states fall at a vast intersection of international conventions, customs and precedents. Landmark cases like the Island of Palmas (Netherlands v. United States) and Eastern Greenland (Denmark v. Norway) have established the kind of evidence competing countries need to amass. Evidence on discovery, possession, occupation (think flags, sled patrols, police outposts, etc.), empty land, cession, recognition, geography, territorial baselines, and more. All these factors would matter to an adjudicator, if there was one. A UN panel has been tasked with assessing the science behind the claims, but will not decide on sovereignty.

It will likely be through negotiation, not adjudication, that ownership of the pole is settled. That makes all the evidence so far gathered seem somewhat superfluous.

If the facts can end up arbitrary, then a few more arbitrary considerations can’t hurt. How do Canada, Denmark and Russia stack up in popular country comparisons? On the indices that measure, in one way or another, good governance?

If the pole went to the country that can best govern it, the winner is Denmark. In second place, Canada would not be bad, especially relative to Russia. But between the two, as one expert told the CBC, “there’s absolutely no doubt that the North Pole is most definitely closer to Greenland than it is to Canada.” Still, here are some alternative factors to consider:

1. Human Development Index: 1) Canada 2) Denmark 3) Russia
2. Corruption Perceptions Index: 1) Denmark 2) Canada 3) Russia
3. World Press Freedom Index: 1) Denmark 2) Canada 3) Russia
4. Energy Sustainability Index: 1) Denmark 2) Canada 3) Russia
5. ICT Development Index: 1) Denmark 2) Canada 3) Russia
6. Global Gender Gap Index: 1) Denmark 2) Canada 3) Russia
7. Global Competitiveness Index: 1) Denmark 2) Canada 3) Russia
8. Animal Protection Index: 1) Denmark 2) Canada 3) Russia
9. Global AgeWatch Index: 1) Canada 2) Denmark 3) Russia
10. Global Peace Index: 1) Denmark 2) Canada 3) Russia

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3 responses to “Why Denmark Should Own the North Pole Instead of Canada

  1. The way it is shaping up, the gepolitical dispute over gaining access to the ‘riches’ beneath the North Pole territory is unlikely to be settled by UN ‘good governance’ arbitrage or by ‘friendly’ negotiation. If one were to surmise, then the more likely outcome will reflect the ‘realist’ maxim ‘to the (stronger) victors go the spoils’. No wonder that Canada now seeks to boost its shipbuilding expenditures so as to assert (presumably also on behalf of the US) and to pre-emptively project its greater (military) presence in the area.

  2. Russia wins.

  3. The further I read, the more despondent I became. The article is based on the ideal that Russia will agree to/abide by an international body’s ruling on who owns the Lomonosov Ridge.
    There is no basis for this belief. President Putin has amply demonstrated his disdain for such civilised processes (think Crimea, think Ukraine).
    I have no doubt he has also been watching China’s `diplomacy’ over disputed islands in Asia.
    Stand by for Russian bases on the Lomonosov Ridge.
    Stand by as Canada, Denmark and the rest of the `free’ world responds with a barrage of words and paper.