Paul Jacob

There is no pole at the North Pole, no actual pole.

Nor is there a Pole, as in Polish person (though the guy who recently swam in the melted pool that now surrounds the pole, might have a little Polish in him).

There have been (and likely will be) Russians. This made a news splash not long ago. Perhaps you read about it in the Daily Mail: “Putin’s Arctic invasion: Russia lays claim to the North Pole — and all its gas, oil, and diamonds.”

Or perhaps you noted the story as it developed a month later, from the BBC: “Russians to dive below North Pole,” which explained that “Russia is sending a mini-submarine to explore the ocean floor below the North Pole and find evidence to support its claim to Arctic territory,” a delightful bit of absurdity on the face of it, since, well, because there is no pole to go “under” or “below,” any claim to scientific awareness in the article was undermined by the editorial department at the BBC.

Or maybe it was the red flag story that you flagged from the International Herald Tribune: “Russia plants flag on sea floor at North Pole.” Tom Lehrer once pithily described America’s diplomatic policy as “Send in the marines!” Now, Russia’s biggest foreign-policy ploy in ages can be dubbed “Send in the submarines!”

A Russian expedition traveled Thursday in a pair of submersibles more than four kilometers under the ice cap and deposited a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole, making a symbolic claim to vast fields of oil and natural gas believed to be beneath the sea north of the Arctic Circle.

The article quickly puts the much-covered (in Russia) event in context as "an openly choreographed publicity stunt," but some stunts are more important than others. Canada, whose vast territory borders the northernmost sea which in turns borders the vaster territory of Russia, has the most to lose by the move.

“This isn’t the 15th century,” says Canada’s foreign minister Peter MacKay. “You can’t go around the world and just plant flags and say ‘We’re claiming this territory.’”

Tell that to Putin. (By the way, can we just get it over with and call him “Vlad”? “Vlad the Impoler”?)


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.