Status quo on Antarctica
Sixty years ago, on June 7th 1950, the Soviet government issued a memorandum on Antarctica after a number of countries had made claims on the territory of the continent. Several years of talks resulted in the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed in Washington in 1959. The Treaty became the first international agreement to proclaim the region a zone free from nuclear and other weapons and closed to any military activity.
The Antarctic continent was sighted in 1820 by two Russian expeditions led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev. A short time earlier Captain James Cook’s ships had failed to discover the southernmost continent. Cook was quoted as saying that no one would ever dare to advance farther south than he had. The Russian seafarers proved him wrong. The ice continent and the surrounding islands are now the earth’s only no-man’s land. The 1959 Treaty declared it an international research laboratory. Arctic and Antarctic explorer Arthur Chilingarov comments:
"Russia is interested in the exploration of Antarctica, he says. It acts on all its commitments, including under the Madrid nature protection protocol. Five scientific stations are already functioning on the continent, and research work will continue. Russia boasts ambitious research programs for Antarctica as we were the trail-blazers!"
The sixth continent is the world’s last treasury of untouched biological resources. For example, the Antarctic glaciers contain 90% of the earth’s fresh water reserves, which is more than relevant amid the acute shortages of fresh water throughout the globe.
Signatories to the Antarctic Treaty officially refrain from any territorial claims on the continent, but some countries are making unofficial claims and are even producing stamps with maps of Antarctica showing territory purportedly belonging to them. Russia urges all countries to observe the status quo on Antarctica and comply with the Antarctic Treaty. 45 countries have signed the Treaty, 27 of them are members of the consulting group. The purpose of the Treaty stays intact – to ensure the use of Antarctica in the interests of all humanity.