Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Andrew King


The steadily shrinking Arctic ice cap has triggered a feverish interest among the five nations whose coastlines border the region concerning their respective rights to the ocean and the seabed below. The possibility of huge reserves of natural gas and oil, and the potential for newly navigable channels have led to competing claims by the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark, and Norway over large sections of the Arctic. The United States, however, is in danger of losing out due to the obstructionist efforts of a handful of isolationist Senators who consigned a crucial treaty providing a mechanism to negotiate these claims to the deep freeze of the United States Senate for nearly twelve years. While the other Arctic nations have long since ratified the treaty and are proceeding to stake out the future of the region, the United States remains seated on the sidelines.

Despite the unanimous support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the backing of the current administration, Senate leaders, under pressure from a small cadre of anti-internationalist Senators, have declined to schedule a floor vote on the Law of the Sea. It is time for a new approach that will free this critical law from its icy prison. The president should withdraw the treaty from the Senate and work with both Houses of Congress to foster a Congressional- Executive agreement to ensure that America is not left out in the cold.