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Smol: Canada ignores Russia’s militarized Arctic at its peril

Like Ukraine, the region is perceived by Vladimir Putin as an integral part of his country. Several modern Arctic warfare bases house, operate and test some of Russia’s most advanced weapons.

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As the war in Ukraine escalates, it might be prudent for Canada to finally make a serious strategic assessment of Russia’s other major military buildup. It is a militarized front which, like Ukraine, involves contested territorial and maritime claims, pitting Vladimir Putin’s Russia against democratic countries within and outside NATO. Like Ukraine, it is also seen by Putin as an integral part of Russia. It is of increasing strategic importance in trade, defense and resource extraction, and it is a front where Russia has amassed unprecedented levels of military equipment and personnel.

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This is the Arctic in 2022. And we ignore at our peril this militarized and contested region around, above and in front of our northern territory and our maritime claim.

On the Russian shores of this disputed sea and land border with Canada, Scandinavia and the United States are new or expanded and modernized Russian Arctic coastal military bases at Rogachevo, Pechenga, Severomorsk, Tiksi, Zvyozdny, Sredny Ostrov, Nagurskoye and Temp, to name a few. These modern Arctic warfare bases house, operate and test some of Russia’s most advanced weapons, such as the MIG 31BM fighter jet and the Poseidon 2M39 stealth nuclear torpedo, as well as TOR-M2DT missiles.

This reality has not been lost on NATO members Denmark and Norway, or allied countries like Sweden and Finland which, like the United States, have improved and expanded their military presence in the region. with professionally trained combat personnel and newly acquired equipment.

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Canada, with its ill-equipped and emasculated military, remains largely absent from the region.

Let us momentarily abandon the common (and I dare say naive) assumption underlying Canadian defense policy: that the United States is at Canada’s disposal, to expend whatever is necessary in American military resources and American military lives to defend every square mile of Canada, at no cost or corresponding effort to Canadians.

Where would we be if our defense depended above all on us?

The answer is: as prepared and combat ready as an administrative headquarters in Yellowknife can be alongside a company-sized detachment of part-time Army Reservists nearby. As martially worthy of Putin’s fear as 440 Squadron, Canada’s only permanent air force squadron in the Arctic with a “fleet” of four non-combat CC-138 twin-otter aircraft. As firm in our will to stand firm as the 55-person (non-military) Signal Station (CFS Alert) on Ellesmere Island. A match as worthy of Russian warships and nuclear submarines, with their increasingly sophisticated weaponry, as our heavy police arctic patrol vessels (only one in service so far), each designed to boast a single machine gun mounted on her deck.

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This is the extent of Canada’s professional “boots in the snow” military capability in the Arctic.

Yes, we have about 5,000 local Canadian Rangers in the North – ready to do just about anything, but actually go to war for Canada. On a professional level, this is a good thing since these non-combatant reserve auxiliaries from northern communities sponsored by the Department of National Defense receive almost no military training. They have rendered invaluable service on occasion when community assistance was needed in operations such as search and rescue. And, especially during this pandemic, these temporary reinforcements have stepped up to provide needed aid to beleaguered communities. The Canadian Rangers are worthy civil defense volunteers, but they are by no means soldiers.

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So let’s not portray them as somehow being at the forefront of Canada’s supposed determination to assert its sovereignty over the Arctic.

Of course, since we are members of NATO, any attack on Canada is considered an attack on all members of NATO. Certainly, in a possible maritime stalemate in the region, Canada can expect some protection and assurance from the United States as well as better armed and equipped armies from Denmark and Norway, not to mention our former colonial masters, France and the United Kingdom.

But should that happen in our current deplorable state of military readiness, let us have the honesty and integrity to refrain from clinging to the absurd illusion of an international “middle power” that many Canadians still harbor.

Robert Smol is a retired military intelligence officer who served in the Canadian Armed Forces for over 20 years. He is currently working as a paralegal and security professional while completing a doctorate in military [email protected]

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Tags : armed forcescanadian armedunited states
Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.