about the Russians planting a flag under the North Pole got me to thinking about the hoax I heard about (but never witnessed), perpetrated by Queen's engineering students
in the 1970s. It was a tradition for Queen's engineering students to do a remarkable practical joke each year (it could have been for April Fools Day) and while I was at Queen's (the first time anyway), they took apart a Volkswagen Beetle and reassembled it around a telephone pole and one year, they bricked up the entry to an on-campus pub. Well, the year I heard about but didn't see, they went across to New York State and planted a flag there and reclaimed the entire United States for Britain. So you see why I was reminded of the story.
Unfortunately, it appears that Canada's politicians are treating the Russian's planting of the flag as a joke. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is quoted as saying: "There is no question over Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. We've made that very clear. We established a long time ago that these are Canadian waters and this is Canadian property," MacKay told CBC News. "You can't go around the world these days dropping a flag somewhere, this isn't the 14th or 15th century. "
I think this is a big mistake. Sending a submarine anywhere is a big and expensive undertaking, not like driving across the border. If the Russians are prepared to make this effort to claim the Pole, then I think their claim should be taken seriously. You cannot claim that "everybody knows" that these are Canadian waters if you never patrol them and never do anything of your own to establish sovereignty
If you dismiss the Russian's claim as childish and trivial, you run the risk of it being repeated to the point where it will become true in everybody else's eyes. Relying on the "everybody knows" defence will not work when everybody knows that the facts are now different.
Labels: Arctic, sovereignty, territoriality