Canada Gears Up For Arctic Tensions With Russia
"Use it or lose it, is the first principle of Arctic sovereignty."
- Canadian PM Stephen Harper
The Canadian Military began a series of training exercises, perparing for possible conflicts in the Arctic. Since Russia's flag planting in the Arctic on August 2007, the Canadian government has been taking precautions to guarantee its own sovereignty over the area.
Over 500 troops are taking part in Operation Nanook 08, including land, air, and sea divisions. Although the Canadian military does perform yearly training in the arctic, the current session includes the participation of a record number of civilian security agencies as well as new warships and surveillance planes.
This heightened activity is related to the visit of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who headed to the Arctic on Tuesday in order to unveil his new $100 million plan to expand energy and mineral mapping in the region.
"Our purpose is to exert sovereignty, demonstrate sovereignty and security but also learn how to live off the land and learn more about the operating environment here in the North," Millar told CTV's Canada AM on Monday from Iqaluit, Nunavut.
Millar said the annual exercise is growing in importance because activity in the North is rapidly increasing.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson said Sunday the government views the recent actions of Russia in the Far North "with great concern."
"We've seen much increased activity in terms of Russian overflights of Canadian airspace. The Americans are seeing the same thing around Alaska," he told CTV's Question Period on Sunday.
Emerson said the actions were helping drive the Conservatives' Arctic strategy.
In August 2007, a Russian icebreaker reached the North Pole. Two Russian mini-submarines went down to the seabed and planted a Russian flag there. Russian state television claimed at the time that the expedition would provide the scientific proof for Russia to lay claim to a huge expanse of Arctic seabed.
Emerson described the exercise as "what many thought was a somewhat silly flag-planting incident in Canada's Arctic."
Still, he said Canada is taking responsible steps towards protecting its sovereignty in the Arctic by:
- Strengthening its Armed Forces, Coast Guard and government services presence in the region
- Working on territorial disputes through the United Nations
- Mapping the seabed to support Canada's claim
- Working with allies like the United States on ways to secure the Arctic