(Ottawa) The premiers of the three territories, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, fear that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be the start of an expansionist policy by Moscow that could day spread to the Arctic region.
They expressed that concern to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a letter last spring, documents obtained by The Press under the Access to Information Act.
They highlight Russia’s investments to build new ports and new infrastructures in this region, which is increasingly coveted for its natural resources, more accessible due to climate change, not to mention the addition of Russian icebreakers and a stronger military presence.
“Northern premiers see Russian aggression as a threat to the health of Arctic communities and to the values of peace and cooperation that guide Arctic affairs. We are increasingly concerned about Arctic defense and security,” said Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane and Premier of Nunavut, P. J. Akeeagok, in their joint missive to Justin Trudeau.
Over the past few years, Russia has embarked on an ambitious program to strengthen its presence in the Arctic. […] As Russia’s global investments and interests grow, we fear that Russian aggression will inevitably impose itself in Arctic affairs.
Premiers Sandy Silver (Yukon), Caroline Cochrane (NWT) and P.J. Akeeagok (Nunavut), in their letter dated March 2, 2022
The premiers also fear that the work of the Arctic Council, which brings together eight countries (Canada, Russia, United States, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland) will be paralyzed because of the war.
Russia has held the presidency of this organization for a period of two years since May 2021, but the other member countries have refused any collaboration with the regime of Vladimir Putin since its aggression.
Mr. Trudeau tried to reassure the three prime ministers during a teleconference during which he listed measures that his government intends to take to ensure the protection of Canada’s sovereignty in the Far North, including investments in modernization NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) and continental defence.
The Trudeau government intends to devote $4.9 billion to it over the next six years and nearly $39 billion over a 20-year period. Defense Minister Anita Anand also discussed the protection of Arctic sovereignty with the three prime ministers in the spring.
But is it enough?
According to retired Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Lieutenant-Colonel Rémi Landry, the premiers of the three territories are absolutely right to sound the alarm.
“We don’t do enough in the Far North. We have problems in this region. We have a port in the Arctic that is not yet finished. We decided to have military infrastructure in Resolute Bay where we could train people. It’s not over yet. Yes, we do three major exercises in the summer, but the fact remains that Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon are Canadian territories. It might be time to show who is master in our house,” commented Mr. Landry, who is an associate professor at the School of Applied Politics at the University of Sherbrooke.
You have to have a deterrent capability. This ability isn’t just about countering an attack. But it must also be used to find out what is going on there. There are probably Russian submarines floating around and we don’t even know about it.
Rémi Landry, retired Canadian Armed Forces Lieutenant-Colonel
Last October, CAF Chief of Staff General Wayne Eyre told a House of Commons committee that it was entirely possible that Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic could be challenged day by Russia and even China.
He also indicated that the protection of this region remains a major concern for the CAF, especially since Russia has reactivated bases in its Far North that had been abandoned after the end of the Cold War.
The Armed Forces conduct military exercises every year in the Arctic. In August, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau traveled to Nunavut with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to witness Operation Nanook for the first time. , which has taken place annually since 2007 and includes aircraft, warships as well as hundreds of CAF personnel training in the harsh Arctic environment.
With the collaboration of William Leclerc, The Press