A global battle for control of the Arctic has been festering for years with Russia exerting its power and Canada renewing claims that the area belongs to us.
Now, the dispute may be ready to explode.
“Recent Russian moves in the Arctic have renewed debate over that country’s intentions and Canada’s own status at the top of the world,” Bob Weber of Global News wrote Sunday. “The newspaper Izvestia reported late last month that Russia’s military will resume fighter patrols to the North Pole for the first time in 30 years.”
“The patrols will be in addition to regular bomber flights up to the edge of U.S. and Canadian airspace.”
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This should send a clear signal to Canada about Russia’s intentions to grab control of an area Canada is choosing to ignore.
VICE Magazine in Montreal used some colourful language to describe the dispute way back in 2014. The headline on that story read: “Russia Is Trying To Bully Their Way Past Canada Into Arctic Sovereignty”
But the words became even stronger in the story.
“You might think the only bad blood between Russia and Canada is over some hockey game, but since about 2007 the Canucks and Russians have been in a diplomatic pissing match over Arctic land sovereignty after Russian explorers planted a tiny flag on the Arctic seafloor and the Canadians called bullshit,” the story read.
“Now that the Northwest Passage is melting and becoming a potential Arctic Suez Canal with possibly billions of dollars in fossil fuel for the taking, the Canadian government is looking to cash in, making an aggressive claim at the United Nations in December last year to extend its northern sea boundary, along with four other competing states: Russia, Denmark, the U.S., and Norway,” Ben Makuch of Vice wrote. “As you can imagine, Harper’s move rattled Russian leader Vladimir Putin who’s now vowing to beef up his military presence in the Arctic amid bold Canadian diplomatic actions.”
Stephen Harper is no longer prime minister, but that hasn’t mellowed this dispute. At the same time, though, Weber reports Canada has done little to defend the territory from Russian aggression.
“Nearing the end of its term, the Liberal government has yet to table an official Arctic policy,” Weber writes.
And then an expert on the situation voiced his opinion.
“Canada needs to keep pace if only because it can’t count on the current international order to hold,” said John Higginbotham of the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo.
The Russians are getting serious. In Weber’s Sunday story from Global News, he makes these observations.
“Old Cold-War-era air bases have been rejuvenated. Foreign policy observers have counted four new Arctic brigade combat teams, 14 new operational airfields, 16 deepwater ports and 40 icebreakers with an additional 11 in development.”
“Bomber patrols have been steady,” the Global story continues. “NORAD has reported up to 20 sightings and 19 intercepts a year.”
So where’s Canada? And where’s its defence of its Arctic territory?
“Canada has little to compare,” Weber writes. “A road has been completed to the Arctic coast at Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories and work for a port at Iqaluit in Nunavut is under way. The first Arctic patrol vessel has been launched, satellite surveillance has been enhanced and a naval refuelling station built on Baffin Island. But most northern infrastructure desires remain unfilled.”
This is not the only time Canada has been questioned about its defence of the Arctic.
Just a little over two years ago, CBC News reported Russia’s moves in the Arctic were getting serious.
“As Russian cyber activities in the United States and military intervention in Syria dominate headlines, the Russian bear has pursued a steady march forward much closer to Canada, in the Arctic,” CBC’s Alex Brockman reported in 2017.
“Russia moved ahead with several steps in its Arctic strategy in 2016, refurbishing military bases, constructing new airfields and building outports. A key element of this policy came together in June, when Russia launched its new nuclear-powered icebreaker in St. Petersburg,” Brockman added in his report.
So if you think this could turn into another Canada-Russia hockey game from 1972 when Canada prevailed after a surprisingly tough struggle, think again. Remember, after 1972, the Russians gained a lot of respect from Canadian hockey fans. Heck, the NHL even started allowing some of their players to play with the pros in North America.
So you can bet, if this Arctic battle intensifies, Russia will exert all the power and resources it can to the fight.
Canada’s military is currently acting as bellhops at our southern borders, carrying luggage for invading illegal immigrants from Central America and setting up housing, food, clothing and more for the invaders.
So would we even have the manpower to send to the Arctic to defend our northern territory? Maybe, it’s time Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his force of luggage carriers at the southern Canadian border started thinking about that.
If a military conflict were to centre on the Arctic, Canada and its NATO allies would be left behind with “very, very little capability,” says James Stavridis, a retired U.S navy admiral, former supreme allied NATO commander and dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
“It’s a full-spectrum press [for Russia] in the Arctic,” Stavridis told CBC News. “NATO broadly, and Canada in particular, have the idea of ‘high North, low tension.’ I get that. But it’s hard to ignore the military buildup that’s going on in the Arctic Ocean.”
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