Held up in legislative limbo in the United States, the Law of the Sea treaty could give other nations the authority to tap into natural resources in the Arctic.
The U.S. may be sitting on the sidelines when it comes to determining the future of the Arctic.
Russia is laying the groundwork to vastly expand its undersea territory to exploit the Arctic's natural resources.
Advocates worry that the fragile region is an environmental time bomb.
As the BP oil spill continues to destroy marine life and ruin livelihoods along the Gulf Coast, conservationists, energy companies and diplomats are preparing for the next big showdown over drilling -- this time in the Arctic.
A Russian icebreaker set sail recently on a scientific voyage to chart its northern underwater boundary, part of its stated plan to claim large hunks of the Arctic for oil, gas and minerals.
Even though the United States is one of the five Arctic nations with a big interest up north (the others are Canada, Greenland/Denmark, Russia and Norway), U.S. diplomats may be left on the sidelines. That's because Congress still hasn't ratified the 28-year-old Law of the Sea Treaty that governs how nations develop resources beyond their boundaries.