The U.S.-Russian Antarctic Thaw

Relations with Moscow aren't great, but new cooperation at the South Pole offers hope.

Accordingly, this month the United States and Russia carried out an even more ambitious inspection together, visiting six stations belonging to India, Belgium, Japan, Norway and China. Their findings will be reported jointly at the next plenary meeting of the all the consultative parties to the Antarctic Treaty scheduled for May 2013, in Brussels, Belgium.

The fact that the United States and Russia have joined forces in conducting inspections under the Antarctic Treaty is a relatively modest achievement in the larger scheme of things. But it does provide an opportunity for the United States and Russia to work together on an important area of common interest—both at the diplomatic level and, perhaps even more importantly, at the level of scientific and technical experts. At the same time, it helps facilitate a continuing dialogue between leaders of both countries while the thornier issues in the bilateral relationship are being resolved.

Frank Klotz is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, and the author of America on the Ice: Antarctic Policy Issues.