The Geopolitics of Antarctica

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Titel: The Geopolitics of Antarctica
Autor(en): Saalbach, Klaus
Zusammenfassung: The paper analyzes the geopolitics of the Antarctic (South Pole) region which is dominated by strategies for the time after the end of the Antarctic Treaty in 2041. Antarctica with 13.2 million square kilometers and a landmass under the ice shield is protected as common heritage of mankind by the Antarctic Treaty from 1959 that came into force in 1961; the treaty is the legal framework and guarantees the free access and research rights for the international community. In 2023, the treaty had 56 parties; of these, 29 of them are Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties (ATCP) which currently maintain approximately 80 research stations in Antarctica. While the Antarctic Treaty is valid until 2041, there are also territorial claims from the days of the South Pole expeditions by Australia, New Zealand, France, Norway, Argentina, Chile, and United Kingdom. All claims are ‘frozen’ by the Antarctic Treaty until 2041, but the geopolitics is already looking forward to the time after. The Antarctic Treaty System ATS consists of the Antarctic Treaty and related agreements and conventions, the Agreed Measures for the Conservation for Flora and Fauna of 1964, the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS) of 1972, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) of 1980, the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA) of 1988, as well as of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty of 1991, also known as Madrid Protocol. As the end of the Antarctic Treaty in 2041 is coming closer, the actors start to bring themselves into an advantageous position on the Antarctic chessboard. The most important activity is the strategic positioning of research stations. While those countries with territorial claims focus on their territory, United States, Russia, and China place their stations across the claimed territories. Antarctic projects are typically national projects without international cooperation. The United States control the South pole with the centrally located Amundsen-Scott Station and have permanent stations in all sectors which are claimed by other states. Russia is also present with large stations that are used for space research and installations for the Navigation Satellite System GLONASS. Like for the Chinese satellite system BeiDou, the Western states are concerned about the dual use-potential of such installations. China has now five large stations and is expanding its capabilities and infrastructure also by an airstrip construction, modern icebreakers, and the systematic use of ports and gateways to Antarctica. Australia and Chile already made claims of continental shelves adjacent to Antarctica while Norway extended its territorial claims to the South Pole in 2015. The debate about exploitation of resources such as minerals, oil, gas, metals, gold etc. is still more theoretical. Environmental aspects are the climate change with the melting ice shield, threats to biodiversity by invasive alien species, the increasing microplastic pollution and the biosecurity where giant viruses and virophages (viruses that infect other viruses) are important matters. It is unrealistic that the states with territorial claims would be able to squeeze out the large powers United States, China, and Russia out of their territories. For this reason, Antarctica is at risk to dissolve into a patchwork of territories with factual control by various nations, a phenomenon that is already known from the Spratly islands in the South Chinese Sea.
Bibliografische Angaben: Working Paper. Universität Osnabrück, Fachbereich 1 - Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften, Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, Osnabrück 2024.
Schlagworte: Antarctica; South Pole; Geopolitics; Climate Change; Biodiversity; Biosecurity
Erscheinungsdatum: 16-Feb-2024
Lizenzbezeichnung: Attribution 3.0 Germany
URL der Lizenz:
Publikationstyp: Arbeitspapier [WorkingPaper]
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