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e become a source of bitter dispute ng nations. Both Canada and the
•heir Serts, are j
territory. But the United States as- in both instances, that the waters
lhe Northern Sea Route. In fact, how S|^f’ h continued to permit only Soviet 'Ps to transit its Arctic waters.1 No SonIC vessei °i any country has ever
K "'e (except for the German raider
,°r centuries the domain of Eskimos explorers, the icy waters of the Arctic
')viet Union claim sovereignty over the •°Us straits, passages, and seas near ‘nternational. he United States has no desire to pro- ^ e ammunition to anti-American ele- 51ents in Canada, but it cannot adopt an llude toward Canadian claims over the i^hwest Passage that might jeopardize (k P°sition vis-a-vis the straits north of s: Soviet Union, which that country, c | e 1932, has developed into its so- ycet* great Northern Sea Route. Twenty ars ago, the Soviet Union hinted that it allow foreign vessels, for a fee, to
E0hf» .. J '
j^0 length of the Northern Sea
v te (except for the German raider [>' during the brief Hitler-Stalin pact ber8Ust 1939-June 1941]2). On 1 Octo- viel987, at a speech in Murmansk, So- General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev again raised the possibility of the Soviet Union’s opening the Northern Sea Route to foreign shipping, subject to the “normalization of international relations,” and possibly a “radical reduction in the level of military confrontation” in the Arctic.3
All this brings to mind the oceanographic voyages of U. S. Coast Guard and Navy icebreakers in Soviet Arctic waters in the 1960s. The Coast Guard’s Northwind (WAGB-282) was the first to conduct such measurements in the summer of 1963.4 During her mission, she crossed the Sannikov Strait into the Laptev Sea without having first notified Soviet authorities.
Building on this, the United States instructed its embassy in Moscow in mid- 1964 to inform the Soviet Main Administration for Hydrometeorological Services that the Navy icebreaker Burton Island (AGB-1) planned to travel from Kodiak Island to Spitsbergen and back in that summer, conducting oceanographic surveys en route. The United States requested that the Soviets transmit hydrometeorological information to the Burton Island, which was scheduled to begin her voyage on 8 July.5 Ice conditions along the Northern Sea Route were good in 1964; the navigation season opened at the end of June and was not officially closed until mid-November.6
The Soviet Foreign Ministry replied to the embassy on 21 July that Soviet authorities could release the requested information to the ship if her exact schedule and route were made known. The Foreign Ministry added, however, that the Northern Sea Route had been used only by “ships belonging to the Soviet Union or chartered in the name of the Northern Sea Route.” The Soviet Union has “for a period of decades spent significant funds on the Northern Sea Route, which is considered an important national line of communication of the USSR.” The Foreign Ministry noted that Soviet territorial waters overlapped all East-West straits in the Kara Sea. Furthermore, it asserted that the Dmitry Laptev and Sannikov straits belong historically to the Soviet Union, and that neither serves international navigation. Therefore, the ministry asserted, “the Law for the Protection of the State Borders of the USSR fully applies” to all these straits. In accordance with that statute, foreign military ships seeking to use these or other internal or
decision was much criticized in a joun
territorial waters of the Soviet Union must seek permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 30 days in advance. The ministry added that it would be willing to waive the 30-day period in this instance.7
Consistent with its position that under international law the Northern Sea Route should be open to free navigation, the United States did not ask Soviet permission for the Burton Island’s voyage. In any event, the ship damaged her rudder in the East Siberian Sea and had to turn back before entering any contested waters. On 23 July the U. S. Embassy in Moscow was instructed, when informing the Soviet Foreign Ministry of the ship’s turnabout, to state that the United States “does not accept all claims of the USSR to waters off its coast” and “reserves its rights and those of its nationals in the waters in question.”8
The United States gave a formal statement on the Soviet claims to the Foreign Ministry in June 1965:
“While the United States is sympathetic with efforts which have been made by the Soviet Union in developing the Northern Seaway Route and appreciates the importance of this waterway to Soviet interests, nevertheless it cannot admit that these factors have the effect of changing the status of the waters of the route under international law. With respect to the straits of the Karsky [Kara] Sea described as overlapped by Soviet territorial waters, it must be pointed out
that there is a right of innocent passage for all ships through straits used for international navigation between two parts of the high seas, and that this right cannot be suspended.”
So far as the Dmitry Laptev and San- nikov straits were concerned, the United States saw no basis for a Soviet claim to these waters on historic grounds, nor did it admit that the doctrine of historic waters could be applied to international straits. The United States, therefore, confirmed its reservation of rights and those of its nationals in the waters in question, which are “not dependent on decrees of the coastal state.”9
At the time this note was being presented to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, the Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind was preparing to depart the U. S. East Coast to conduct oceanographic surveys in the Barents and Kara seas and then cross the Northern Sea Route to the Chukchi Sea. Initially, all Washington agencies agreed to this voyage and that Soviet permission would not be sought for the transit. The Northwind would avoid any problems at the straits leading into the Kara Sea by going north of Novaya Zemlya.10 Since Severnaya Zemlya can rarely be passed on the north, a conflict between the U. S. and Soviet positions was expected to arise only if and when the Northwind had to use the Vilkitskiy Strait.
In the face of manifest Soviet determination not to allow the Northwind unhindered passage, the U. S. Department of State advised Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus Vance in early Augusl , have the Northwind return to the Unl States by the Atlantic Ocean afte[,C^ujS pleting her work in the Kara Sea. .
ist’s account of the voyage.12 In spite the State Department’s early August r® ommendation, the Northwind pr°cee . to the very entrance of the VilDts Strait, and then sought the Pentag0^ permission to try to reach the Pacim^ sailing north of Severnaya Zemlya- ^ Defense Department, however, °r jrjp the ship to turn around and start her f back to New York no later than the en September.13 . i
Although the Northwind made no c lenge of the Soviet jurisdictional c over the Vilkitskiy Strait, the Soviets ^ protest that the ship’s coring activity the Kara Sea violated exclusive So |4 rights to exploit its continental sh ^ This protest had been anticipate^ (£) Northwind’s captain had been care avoid taking cores in waters shall than the 200 meters specified in the tre on the continental shelf.15 sy
In early July 1966, the U. S. Em in Moscow was instructed to inform. j Soviet Foreign Ministry that the Uiu ^ States planned to send three icebrea^ to conduct oceanographic surveys ^
of the Soviet Union that summer, W1 operations to be carried out on the seas.16 The Atka (AGB-3) was to wor the Barents Sea, the Burton Island 1,1 Chukchi Sea, and the Northwind in^s East Siberian and Laptev seas. ^ (0 meant that the Northwind would haVL
IQut the 1966 operations, however, was ( ^arge that the Burton Island had viola- 11 Soviet territorial waters off Wrangel ^land.20 in November, the U. S. Em- assy was instructed to inform the For- 8a Ministry that an examination of the ^c°rds of the Burton Island showed that n° time had it come closer than 13 lles to Wrangel Island.21
The United States assigned the Coast
mnavigate the Arctic Basin in the
le ice north of Severnaya Zemlya and
to use the strait would have to be
^ to be military ships.26 Facing this
Position, the United States reversed The two icebreakers were ordered
ransit the Laptev or Sannikov straits to reach the Laptev Sea. No one anticipated a Soviet objection; the Northwind had ,ransited the Sannikov Straits in 1963 "'ithout Soviet comment.17 But no one '''ill ever know; bad ice conditions on the orthern Sea Route in the summer of %6 contributed to cancellation of both . e Northwind's operations and the test- ln8 of Soviet tolerance ofU. S. icebreaker
The Soviet Communist Party newspa- Pravda nonetheless wrote about U. S. .^breaker operations in a 23 September . "6 article, charging that “these myste- r'°us voyages,” begun some years before ai°und Wrangel Island, “approach So- let ship convoys out of the fog like ® °sts” and stay with them for long peri- ^ s> "disturbing the work of Soviet sail- The only formal Soviet protest
^ard icebreakers Edisto (WPB-1313) Eastwind (WAGB-279) to attempt to
1Ir>er of 1967. The State Department irmed the Soviet Embassy on 14 Au- 0jSt 1967 that the ships would sail north I hlovaya Zemlya and Severnaya Zem- . a 'nto the Laptev and East Siberian (,as' and then return home through the anadian archipelago.22
6 ships, however, ran into impene- tj(e forced to divert to the Vilkitskiy 3 From there, the ships radioed to Ul a* Soviet authorities about their I ar|ned transit. The Soviet Foreign Min- MrV then informed the U. S. Embassy in °scow that permission for “naval ves- jt^Sht 30 days in advance.24 Washington ■ ged this to be a proforma position and k, ri|cted the ships to proceed. They then 2^nned to enter the Vilkitskiy Strait on August and sail north of the New Si- pas'an Islands about five days later, by- i. Slng the Sannikov and Laptev
lraits25 Th '
C|ene Soviet Foreign Ministry made it tp,ar 'hat it would not waive the 30-day prc and would enforce the Statute on the 'lie rCt'on °T Soviet State Borders against . Edisto and Eastwind, which it consid- ?ed ’ not to enter the Vilkitskiy Strait and, on 30 August, the U. S. Embassy was told to protest the Soviet action barring innocent passage.27 On 4 October 1967, the Soviet Foreign Ministry rejected the protest, insisting that the Edisto and Eastwind were military vessels and stating that the Soviet requirement was well known: Requests must be submitted 30 days in advance for military vessels to pass through its territorial waters.28
The United States replied in a note that its position in regard to the status of the Kara Sea straits, the Dmitry Laptev and Sannikov straits, and the Northern Sea Route did not require repetition. Furthermore, the note said that the military status of Coast Guard vessels in peacetime was immaterial, since it was the U. S. view that all ships, including warships, have a right of innocent passage through straits used for international navigation. The United States rejected the Soviet claim that its unilateral reservation to Article 23 of the 1958 Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone permitted the Soviet Union to bar innocent passage by warships through straits connecting parts of the high seas.
However, after 1967, the United States made no further tests of Soviet resolve on the Arctic straits.
There were subsequent developments on the international law front. In July 1982, President Reagan announced that the United States would not sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Part III of which applies to straits used for international navigation. On 10 March 1983, the President added that the United States would not acquiesce in unilateral acts of other states to restrict the rights and freedoms of the international community in navigation and overflights and other related high seas uses.29
Mikhail Gorbachev’s 1 October 1987 suggestion that foreign vessels might be allowed to use the Soviet Union’s Northern Sea Route as a part of a military accommodation in the Arctic is something the United States should approach carefully. There are few U. S. commercial interests to be served by opening the Northern Sea Route to foreign shipping. Europe or Japan may be more interested, but unless something again happens to close the Suez Canal, no Western country is likely to be as tempted as 20 years earlier in the wake of the 1967 war, when the Soviet Minister of Merchant Marine made his similar suggestion. Even those with short memories will recall easily the great difficulties and, indeed, ship losses, that the Soviet Union experienced in operating the Northern Sea Route in late September 1983.30
The United States has long disagreed with Canada’s claim that the waters within its Arctic archipelago are internal Canadian waters that lack the character of international straits either by customary usage or conventional international law. However, until 1985, the countries agreed to disagree on the issue. Neither Reagan nor Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney raised opposing U. S. and Canadian views of Canada’s Arctic waters at the Shamrock summit in Quebec in March 1985. Just a few months later, the Canadian opposition seized upon these views as a political club with which to belabor the Mulroney government, which was already under attack from the opposition for allegedly selling out the country’s interests to its more powerful southern neighbor.
But in early 1988, pressured by Canadian plans to purchase 10-12 nuclear- powered submarines that would allow it to enforce its claims of sovereignty over the Arctic, the United States signed a new agreement with Canada. Both sides expressed the hope that the five-article agreement on Arctic cooperation, signed on 11 January by U. S. Secretary of State George Shultz and his Canadian counterpart, Joe Clark, would improve relations between the two neighbors. In Article 3 of the agreement, the United States “pledges that all navigation by U. S. icebreakers within waters claimed by Canada to be internal will be undertaken with consent of the Government of Canada.”
Always conscious of the possible linkage with Soviet claims of Arctic sovereignty, however, both nations asserted in Article 4 that “nothing in this agreement of cooperative endeavor between Arctic neighbors and friends nor any practices thereunder affects the respective positions of the Governments of the United States and Canada on the Law of the Sea in this or other maritime areas or their respective positions regarding third parties.”
Although this agreement has helped thaw U. S.-Canadian relations, it has not deterred Canada from pursuing its purchase of nuclear-powered submarines.
Curiously, just when the Soviet Union began hinting at opening up the Northern Sea Route, neighboring Canada seems to be moving toward hardening its position on foreign access to its northern waters.
'On 28 March 1967, the Soviet Minister of the Merchant Marine at an extraordinary news conference announced that the Soviet Union would soon open the Northern Sea Route to foreign vessels, for a price. He said that since the atomic-powered icebreaker Lenin had come into service in 1960, the navigation season on the Northern Sea Route had been extended to almost five months, and that Japanese vessels were already using portions of the Northern Sea Route. See The New York Times, 29 March 1967,
2The Germans sent the Komet through the passage to surprise the Allies in the Pacific; they accepted Soviet sovereignty and had Soviet cooperation in making this transit. See Robert Eyssen, Hilfskreuzer Komet, Wilhelm Heine Verlag, Munich, 1960. The Germans may have put the Komet's experience to use when they sent a naval task force to attack Soviet installations along the Western part of the Northern Sea Route in 1942.
*The Washington Post, 2 October 1987.
4The Northwind was lent to the Soviet Union during World War II and returned by them only in 1950. See Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, Vol IV,
5Embassy Moscow Airgram A-44, 10 July 1964.
6The New York Times, 30 June 1964, p. 33, and 14
November 1966, p. 11.
7Embassy Moscow telegram 222, 21 July 1964. 8State telegram 228, 24 July 1964.
9State Airgram A-376, 15 June 1965.
,0State Airgram CA-192, 6 July, 1965.
“Letter dated 9 August 1965 from Acting Deputy Undersecretary of State Thompson to Deputy Secretary of Defense Vance.
,2Richard Petrow, Across the Top of Russia, New York, David McKay, 1967.
13Ibid, p. 263.
14Embassy Moscow Airgram A-1694, 15 April 1966. 15Petrow, p. 185.
,6State telegram 1473, 5 July 1966.
“State telegram 7346, 11 July 1966.
18USCGC Northwind Arctic West Cruise Report, 1966, p. 3.
19Embassy Moscow telegram 1295, 24 September 1966.
■^Embassy Moscow telegram 1617, 4 October 1966.
2,State telegram 90973, 25 November 1966. 22State telegram 20476, 4 August 1967, and Ai Memoire to the Soviet Embassy of August 14. ^State telegram, 24 August 1967.
24Aide Memoire of 24 August 1967.
^State telegram 27523, 26 August 1967. 26Moscow telegram 5781, 28 August 1967.
27State telegram 29187, 29 August 1967. 28Embassy Moscow telegram 1335, 4 October \9 • 29Department of State Bulletin, 1983 June, P- ^The Washington Post for 15 October, 20 Octo e » 21 October, 23 October, and 3 November 1983-
Mr. Houston recently retired from a 40-year career the Foreign Service. He became interested in navigation while serving as consul for science technology at the U. S. embassy in Moscow.
Horn Mine Countermeasures
One of the most common mines, dating back 100 years, is the moored contact or horn mine. The horns are made of lead. Inside each is a glass vial containing sulfuric acid. At the base of the horn is a dry charged battery, which is connected to the mine detonator. If a horn is bent, the glass vial breaks, acid pours into the battery, and BOOM!
It so happened that during World War II, an English fisherman returning to port reported to the captain of the port, “Sir, I came across a mine in my nets, so I towed it in, lashed to my stem.” The captain became livid, “Get it out of here! If that thing explodes, it will destroy the port!” “You don’t have to worry, sir,” responded the fisherman, “I chopped all the horns off.” Apparently, he was a skilled ax man. If he had bent a hom instead of chopping if off cleanly, the mine would have fired.
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