Senate Committee Studying Arctic Security in Response to Chinese, Russian Interests in the Region | Techno Glob

The chairman of the special Senate committee said the group traveled across the northern NWT and Nunavut last week to research security and defense projects that could also create beneficial infrastructure for local communities.

The Standing Committee on National Security, Defense and Veterans Affairs met throughout the week with local and regional leaders, as well as the Canadian Rangers and Coast Guard between the two regions.

Senator Tony Dean, Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security, Defense and Veterans Affairs. Dean traveled across the Arctic to gain a better understanding of the security and defense of the region. (Marie Boutilier)

This follows Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the development of military facilities and infrastructure in the Arctic, said Sen. Tony Dean, chairman of the committee.

“We know that Russia is increasing its footprint, particularly in the Arctic,” he told CBC News on October 4.

“We know that China has also recently been showing some interest in minerals and fisheries and really declaring itself as a near-Arctic state as part of that and adding a new generation of stealth missile capabilities, and that gives us a lot to worry about.”

The committee will recommend and invest in defense projects developed by the federal government in the spring of 2023.

Beneficial infrastructure for local communities

Dean said the committee was looking at areas of investment in Arctic security that would benefit local communities.

“Expenditure on defense and security exceeds that on infrastructure in many respects,” he said, adding communications technology, development of ports and coast guard and shipping capacity.

This will have a positive impact on large-scale indigenous communities in the Arctic region, he said.

The committee consists of 12 senators, including Margaret Dawn Anderson of the NWT.

The trip began in Iqaluit, where they met with the local RCMP detachment, an aerial search and rescue team and members of the Canadian Coast Guard.

The trip included a visit to Cambridge Bay to see the High Arctic Research Station and meet Canadian Rangers, a stop in Inuvik to meet with NORAD officials, and a visit to the US Department of Defense in Anchorage, Alaska.

The group wrapped up the trip last weekend in Yellowknife where they discussed Arctic security with NWT Premier Caroline Cochrane.

Arctic security largely ignored

Rob Hubert is a Northern Defense Analyst at the University of Calgary.

Hubert said the issue of Arctic security should be front and center for Canadians, especially after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons.

“Most of the delivery systems for the nuclear weapons he threatens to use are found in the Arctic region,” Hubert said.

“I hope that given its importance, it will become an election issue that can be debated and debated properly.”

Hubert said the federal government has largely neglected Arctic security, leaving Canada behind all of its Nordic allies in terms of development.

“You’re starting to see signs that they’re starting to lose patience,” he said of Canada’s Nordic allies.

“Part of the problem is that we’ve become immune to a lot of problems because Americans will take care of it,” he said. “But I think that under the Trump administration, we saw that the special relationship would basically allow us to free-ride on the Americans and now the Europeans, which I think is becoming more questionable as an ongoing policy.”

Rob Hubert is a Northern Defense Analyst at the University of Calgary. He says Canada has fallen behind its Nordic allies in Arctic security. (Screenshot/Zoom)

Hubert said Canada has never been too late to boost its Arctic defenses, and he welcomes the Senate study. He said some important pieces of infrastructure should be prioritized.

Includes the ability to Current warning system In the Arctic, which was last modernized in 1985. It is a chain of radar stations that conduct aerospace surveillance.

“In June of this year, of course, the defense minister made a lot of claims about being able to modernize it,” Hubert said, adding that the question remains of how much money will actually be invested.

Hubert said the existing air hangars should be able to operate on a 24/7 basis and the Senate committee should look into whether this is possible or if they need more preparation.

He said the Air Force should be ready to accommodate existing CF-18s in the fleet, as well as F-35s, potentially new jets.

Hubert said the committee should also examine the status of the Nanicivic naval refueling facility on Baffin Island, which was announced in 2007.

“This is something that has taken an extraordinary amount of time to get up and running,” Hubert said, adding that Russia has at least 22 similar facilities in the Arctic region.

“We haven’t been able to get this one site up and running, and I think questions have to be asked in terms of how long it took.”

Will the study lead to action on the issue?

“At that point, I would be very negative,” Hubert said.

“It’s hard to see that we have this ongoing crisis that escalates with Russian use of force in the Arctic and Ukraine, and yet we don’t seem to be doing that much.”

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