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North Pole claimed? Harper baffled by Russian 'symbolic' planting of flag

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was baffled by Russia's brazen move to plant a flag at the North Pole yesterday, but he vowed strong action to defend Canada's resource-rich turf.

Responding to news that two Russian submarines plunged to the Arctic Ocean floor yesterday and marked the spot with a flag in a titanium capsule, Harper said the federal government will take swift steps to assert Canada's sovereignty.

"I don't know what to make of this particular Russian action," he said during a caucus retreat in Charlottetown.

"It shows once again that sovereignty over the North and sovereignty in our Arctic is going to be an important issue ... This government has put a real emphasis on northern and Arctic sovereignty and ... we will move quickly in that regard."


The territorial dispute with the Kremlin heats up as Harper prepares to make a whirlwind trip to Nunavut next week.

Sergey Khudyakov, first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, insisted the flag manoeuvre was "more symbolic than political." But he made it clear Russia intends to assert its claim to the polar seafloor region that is rich in oil and gas.

"The main goal was a scientific goal, to explore this area," he told Sun Media. "As for the flag, it is a usual practice for the scientists as a sign of pride because it was a big success. We can compare it to the American astronauts landing in the moon. It doesn't mean that the Americans own the moon."

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay downplayed Russia's move as "just a show," and insisted the stunt did not pose any real threat to Canada's sovereignty.

"This isn't the 15th century. You can't go ... just plant flags and say, 'We're claiming this territory,' " MacKay told CTV.


But Western Arctic NDP MP Dennis Bevington said the feds can't afford to shrug off Russia's move.

Russian researchers plan to use yesterday's dive to help map the Lomonosov ridge. Moscow claims the underwater ridge is part of Russia's continental shelf under international law. If recognized, the claim would give Russia control of almost half of the Arctic seabed.

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Finders keepers? According to wikipedia (fwiw), "Discounting Peary's disputed claim, the first men to set foot at the North Pole were, according to some sources, a Soviet Union party, variously described as including Pavel Gordiyenko (or Geordiyenko) and three[5] or five[6] others, or Aleksandr Kuznetsov and 23 others,[7] who landed a plane (or planes) there on April 23, 1948. According to Antarctica.org, three Li-2 planes landed, carrying a total of seven men.[8]"

Whatever. Harper - and Canada - are totally out of their depth here. Might proves right. What should happen here has nothing to do with what will happen (which will probably only intensify when oil prices start going through the roof).

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