Russia preparing territorial claims against US regarding Bering Strait

Russia is considering the possibility of refusing to comply with the USA/USSR Maritime Boundary Agreement, which delimited the maritime area of the Bering Strait.

Important committees of Russia’s Federation Council discussed the expediency of continuing to observe the agreement in a closed-door session on Monday, Konstantin Kosachev, head of the international affairs committee, told Interfax.

According to him, representatives of the Foreign Ministry, FSB and Federal Fishery Agency were invited to the meeting, and were all “united” in their positions. It will soon be officially reported to Federation Council Chairperson Valentina Matvienko.

The agreement, which was signed in 1990, was not ratified by the parliament of the Soviet Union or of the Russian Federation. This means that its application is “temporary”, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.

According to article 15 of the federal law “On Russia’s international treaties”, agreements concerning territorial borders, including the delimitation of the continental shelf, are subject to ratification. Without ratification, they have no binding legal force, although they can be implemented on a temporary basis.

The idea of breaking off the agreement and de facto laying claim to part of the economic zone claimed by the US was voiced by Boris Nevzorov, a Russian senator from Kamchatka Krai, in October last year.

“When introducing a 200 mile exclusive economic zone between our countries in the region of the Bering and the Chukchi seas, which have overlapped for 1,500 miles, the delineation of maritime space in according with international practice must be done along the middle line, equidistant from the coasts of the two countries. However, due to Shevarnadze’s concession, the border of the disputed sections was done according to an American orthodromic straight line,” Nevzorov explained.

As a result, according to Nevzorov, Russia lost out on more than 500,000 tons of fish and crab per year, and also lost access to hundreds of billions of dollars worth of oil and gas fields.

The temporary demarcation line has also been an obstacle to the development of the North Sea Route, he noted: “Now, when a tanker arrives with gas, it needs to ask the Americans: May we pass through your economic zone. It’s completely absurd.”

Federation Council Chairperson Valentina Matvienko supported the senator’s idea: “We’re all being shy, we’re all being modest. Were being pounded on all of these, and we’re only threatening to take symmetrical measures. And so we must take symmetrical measures – well, how much of such an attitude towards Russia can we swallow?” Matvienko remarked.

  Russia, USA, Bering Strait