Move over, Santa Claus.

A group of Russian scientists has returned from an Arctic expedition, claiming that the North Pole is part of the country's turf. The argument, first made back in 2001 before the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, is that the underwater Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of the Eurasian continent, and thus as Russian as a brooding, chess-playing ballerina. The Lomonosov Ridge includes the North Pole. More importantly -- to grown-ups, anyway -- the region is estimated to contain vast hydrocarbon deposits.

Russia could use this new data to reassert its claim over 460,000 square miles of the Arctic, an area that is currently administered by an international body. The move would fit perfectly with Russia's aspirations to secure energy resources, which it can in turn use to regain geopolitical leverage.

BP (NYSE:BP) didn't get edged out of the Siberian Kovykta gas field last week on a technicality -- that was one of a string of recent political maneuvers by the Russian Federation to consolidate its power. Royal Dutch Shell's (NYSE:RDS-A) (NYSE:RDS-B) loss of Sakhalin-2 last year is another example. Fellow Fool contributor David Lee Smith recently had much more to say on this subject.

The U.S., one of Russia's rival Arctic-abutters, would of course seek to block Russia's annexation attempt. There's a small wrinkle, however: The U.S. has failed to ratify the very U.N. treaty that governs international maritime rights.

The chessboard may be arranged in Russia's favor, but it's too soon to call checkmate. We don't know how the other Arctic actors will react to this development. Norwegian energy champion Statoil (NYSE:STO), for one, wouldn't be pleased to see the icy spoils left to its eastern neighbor.
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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't own shares in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy won't leave you adrift.