Canada, Arctic oil, and militarism

This video is about Arctic wildlife.

By Louis Girard in Canada:

Canada’s “Northern Strategy” and the militarization of the Arctic

10 September 2010

Since assuming power in 2006, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper has made the assertion of Canadian capitalist interests in the Arctic region a priority. Harper has made five visits to the Arctic since taking office, including a five-day tour late last month.

The Canadian ruling elite, like those of the neighbouring Arctic Ocean coastal states, views the melting of the Polar ice cap, due in part to global warming, as an opportunity to make huge profits. Competition for control over the region’s lucrative resources has exploded in recent years.

Canada’s Far North comprises a full 40 percent of the country’s landmass. It is the site of immense energy resources, which have become increasingly accessible as the Arctic sea ice melts. The region is thought to have the equivalent of 90 billion barrels of oil and as much as a quarter of the world’s yet to be discovered oil and natural gas.

Melting of the permanent ice is also opening up a new intercontinental maritime route, the famed Northwest Passage, which by shortening the distance to be travelled between Europe and the Asian Pacific, will allow shipping companies to save substantial transportation costs. For the country that controls the Passage, this would be a highly valuable asset.

Harper’s Arctic visit was the occasion for his government to seek a rapprochement with the US, in order to promote Canadian interests in the Arctic in opposition to Russian claims in the area. …

But the policy is fraught with contradictions. Despite the policy paper’s claim that “Canada does not anticipate any military challenges in the Arctic,” the immensity of the natural resources coming into play is inevitably pushing both medium and great powers—including the United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway—to develop their military presence in this region.

NATO Arctic Security And Canadian Sovereignty In The Far North: here.

The Arctic has in recent weeks become a focal point of geopolitical tensions between Russia and the United States. Given the present rate of global warming, scientists anticipate that the region will be ice-free by the summer of 2030. It is believed to contain a large portion of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves. It is also an important maritime route, one that is increasingly accessible due to the thawing of its ice cover: here.

Denmark has made claim to a vast area of the Arctic Ocean sea-floor, provoking angry complaints from Canada’s elite: here.

The Netherlands and the Arctic: here. And here.

This video from Alaska is about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 50th anniversary .

Beautiful footage of Arctic glaciers – disappearing due to warming waters VIDEO: here.

Spring Cleaning in the Arctic: Putin’s Environmental Action Plan for the Far North: here.

David B. Williams, Climate Story Tellers: “Something strange happened in the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1950s. During a period when both countries were focused intently on space, nuclear weapons, and post-war development, two environmental issues made national headlines. Even stranger, the places that attracted attention were thousands of miles from either of the political centers in Moscow or Washington, D.C., in some of the most isolated parts of each country. Against these odds, however, Lake Baikal and what later became known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge transcended politics and geography to emerge as powerful environmental symbols”: here.

Check out these amazing photos of creatures under the Arctic sea ice of the White Sea: here.

WikiLeaks+Greenpeace+BBC documentary on Arctic carveup released: here.

Canada spearheads exploitation and militarization of the Arctic: here.

Is the scramble over the North Pole back on? Here.

Arctic Rivalry: Battle for North Pole Oil Sparks Fears of ’21st-century Cold War: here.

Stunning Images of Canadian Arctic: here.

Canada’s military is planning to intervene much more aggressively in public life, under a new strategy that the head of Canada’s military, Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance, has dubbed the “weaponization of public affairs”: here.

US admiral claims Russia’s intervention in Syria has implications for Arctic: here.

18 thoughts on “Canada, Arctic oil, and militarism


    Inside the mind of Col. Russell Williams

    Published On Sat Oct 09 2010

    Jim Rankin and Sandro Contenta Staff Reporters
    Staff Reporters

    The crimes gave investigators no reason to suspect a link.

    In Ottawa, a burglar was stealing lingerie in a middle-class neighbourhood, careful to break in when no one was home.

    In Tweed, 200 kilometres west, two women were sexually assaulted by a man who took pictures but did not attempt penetration.

    In Brighton, south of Tweed, an air force flight attendant was badly beaten, raped and murdered.

    The modi operandi could not have been more different.

    Police considered a link to the Tweed sexual assaults when Jessica Elizabeth Lloyd, 27, went missing in late January from her home near the village.

    But nothing could have prepared them for the suspect they finally caught.

    Col. David Russell Williams — who this past week indicated through his lawyer that he intends to plead guilty on Oct. 18 to two murders, two sex assaults and a string of fetish break-ins — is a serial killer like none they have ever seen.

    “This guy is quite unusual,” says psychologist Vernon Quinsey, who spent 16 years assessing criminals at the Oak Ridge maximum security psychiatric hospital in Penetanguishene.

    “We’re learning from this case,” adds an informed source, who requested anonymity.

    “We haven’t seen guys like this in the past and we don’t expect to see a lot of them in the future.”

    Williams had a successful career and a long, apparently loving marriage, and didn’t embark on a life of crime until he began a series of fetish home burglaries in September 2007, at the age of 44.

    “It’s very unusual for a guy who’s got his act together like that … to all of a sudden start committing crimes at a late age,” says Quinsey, professor emeritus of psychology, biology and psychiatry at Queen’s University.

    “The guys you typically see start earlier,” he adds.

    “Almost nobody starts a life of crime when they’re in their 40s.”

    Equally unusual was his escalation from panty fetish to sex assault to murder. Most serial killers assault and kill in tandem, right from the start.

    Williams seems a walking Jekyll and Hyde: by day, commander of CFB Trenton, the biggest air force base in Canada; by night, a sexual predator.

    But Quinsey dismisses suggestions of a split personality, describing it as a popular but misused term, long associated with schizophrenics. And Williams is no schizophrenic.

    “The most common variety (of schizophrenic) that commits murder is completely disorganized,” Quinsey says.

    “They kill someone and wander off into the arms of the police.”

    Williams was calculating. He planned his crimes. His primary residence was in Ottawa; his cottage was in Tweed. His regular jogs through his neighbourhoods were reconnaissance missions.

    “When sex predators go out for a jog, they are always on the hunt — they’re looking for the opportunity,” says Glenn Woods, former director of the RCMP’s criminal profiling unit. “They spend a lot of time casing a place.”

    Williams is what experts call a paraphilic — a sexual deviant. He stole lingerie and took pictures of the women he sexually assaulted, and of those he tied up, raped and murdered. He forced Lloyd to put on lingerie and pose for pictures before killing her.

    Deviants like Williams, Quinsey says, get “turned on” by “hyper-dominance, sexual coercion and rape.” Those who eventually rape tend to exhibit anti-social behaviour early in their lives and have committed a variety of crimes.

    Clifford Olson, the British Columbian who pleaded guilty in 1982 to 11 murders, was known to police by the age of 10.

    He was well on his way to a life of theft, armed robbery, fraud and sexual sadism by the time he served his first prison sentence at 17.

    Ted Bundy, the American who killed more than 30 women during the 1970s, was a compulsive thief in high school. He was arrested twice as a juvenile, and some evidence suggests he committed his first murder in his teens.

    Williams’ history is unblemished by comparison.

    Quinsey says he might be ego-dystonic — someone who finds his own impulses distressing and unacceptable. He perhaps resorted to non-violent ways to satisfy his urges, with online porn or prostitutes. Experts interviewed by the Star wondered if he practised bondage with girlfriends or his wife.

    Still, based on criminals with similar sexual deviances, Williams “should be lying, he should be cheating, he should let people down in relationships, he should be unreliable,” Quinsey says.

    Instead, he was competent on the job and friendly with staff. He visited his secretary in hospital when she got sick, and helped with a fundraiser for the sick cousin of an employee. In his spare time he golfed, fished and played cribbage with friends and neighbours.

    Both Quinsey and Woods speculate that a sudden, significant event might have triggered Williams’ life of crime.

    “We all have stressors that put pressure on us and we all have different ways of relieving it,” says Woods, who left the RCMP in 2007 and now runs a company that trains police forces on criminal profiling. “Some people go for a run, others have a glass of wine, and sexual predators go out and rape.”

    Says Quinsey: “The only scenario I can think of is that this guy had these interests for a long time, but he was able to control them. And then something sets him off and he can’t control them any more.”

    During one of his sexual assaults, he reportedly told his victim he was attacking her “so I can move on with my life.”

    What set him off?

    Williams was born in England in 1963. His parents, Nonie and David Williams, soon moved to Canada, where his father, a metallurgist, took a job at Canada’s nuclear research lab in Chalk River. The couple had another son, Harvey, before their marriage fell apart.

    When Russell was 7, Williams’ mother married Jerry Sovka, a nuclear scientist and neighbour. In the late ’70s, Sovka’s work took the family to South Korea. Williams began high school at Toronto’s Birchmount Collegiate, but finished at Upper Canada College.

    A fellow boarder at the college remembers Williams being locked in his room by other students as a prank. The boarder, who asked not to be identified, says Williams got out by tying together bed sheets and climbing out the window.

    At the University of Toronto, where he was known as a prankster, Williams graduated with a degree in politics and economics.

    Williams surprised friends when he announced he wanted to become an air force pilot. The decision came on the heels of a difficult break-up with a girlfriend, and it would be a long time before he was known to have dated again.

    One close friend worried that Williams was living out a fantasy based on the movie Top Gun. “Now he’s going to be a jet fighter and win the girl back,” Jeff Farquhar said in an interview with the CBC.

    One of Williams’ first postings in the military was in the early 1990s as a rookie flight instructor at the Canadian Forces flying school at Portage la Prairie, Man. He married Mary Elizabeth Harriman in 1991.

    In 2001, Williams’ mother and stepfather divorced. His brother, a Bowmanville doctor, said in a press statement that the second divorce caused a deep rift between Williams, him and their mother, which they recently made efforts to repair.

    Williams’ childhood doesn’t fit the pattern of parental abandonment or physical and sexual abuse found in the histories of some mass murderers. And none of the psychologists and criminal profilers interviewed by the Star consider his mother’s divorces a potential trigger of a life of crime. “Everybody gets divorced,” Quinsey scoffs.

    Williams went from fetish burglaries to stalking to sexual assaults without penetration to rape and murder — all within two years.

    “If he’s involved in 82 break-ins and stealing panties, he’s got to be feeling invulnerable and invincible,” says Woods. “So the (sexual) fantasy is driving the frequency of the break-ins and he’s feeling like he’s never going to get caught, so he escalates.”

    Says the informed source: “I think both those girls were killed to eliminate witnesses.”

    The fact that Williams killed close to home doesn’t surprise Jack Levin, a professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University and author of the 2008 book Serial Killers and Sadistic Murders — Up Close and Personal.

    “Most serial killers will have a comfort zone,” he says. “They just kill in one place.” What is unusual, Levin adds, is that Williams victimized people he knew, like the friends whose Tweed home he burglarized three times and the 38-year-old corporal he worked with, Marie-France Comeau, whom he raped and asphyxiated in her Brighton home.

    “Many (serial killers) have a small circle of friends, neighbours and relatives who are off limits to their killing, and they divide the world into two camps: those individuals they know well and don’t hurt, and total strangers,” Levin says.

    By attacking people he knew, Williams risked being identified. He tried to clean his crime scenes — for example, he took with him the tape and restraints he used on his victims. But he was sloppy, too.

    During the Comeau killing, he left a partial print of the tread of his footwear in her blood. When he abducted Lloyd, he left distinctive tire treads from his utility vehicle in the snow around her home — a mistake that led to his arrest.

    “They begin to feel invincible,” Levin says. “He may have felt that he was beyond suspicion, that no one would think of him as a potential killer and he was getting away with murder.”

    All agree on one thing: if Williams had not been caught, he would have killed again.


  2. Russell Williams, Top Canadian Military Official, Charged With Murder

    ROB GILLIES | 02/ 8/10 08:47 PM | AP

    TORONTO — The commander of Canada’s largest Air Force base, who once flew dignitaries around the country, has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of two women

    Ontario Provincial Police Det. Insp. Chris Nicholas said Monday that Col. Russell Williams, 46, was also charged in the sexual assaults of two other women. Williams was arrested Sunday in Ottawa.

    The charges left Canada’s military in a state of shock.

    Williams, a 23-year military veteran, was appointed as the base commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Trenton, Ontario last July. Trenton is Canada’s busiest Air Force base and is providing logistical support for Canada’s missions in Haiti and Afghanistan as well as support for the Vancouver Winter Games.

    Williams is charged with the first-degree murder of Jessica Lloyd, 27, of a Belleville, Ontario, resident whose body was found earlier Monday, and Marie Comeau, a 38-year-old corporal found dead in her Brighton, Ontario, home in November.

    Authorities said Williams came to the attention of police during a roadside canvas on Feb. 4, six days after Lloyd was deemed missing.

    Williams is also charged with forcible confinement, breaking and entering and sexual assault after two women were sexually assaulted during two separate home invasions in the Tweed, Ontario area in September of 2009.

    “We’re shocked by the connection that has been made with a leader in our Air Force,” Maj. Gen. Yvan Blondin, the direct commander of Williams, said in Trenton.

    “It obviously is no longer possible for the commander to remain in his position.”

    Blondin said he didn’t know him personally but said Williams was an elite pilot and considered a “shining bright star.”

    Williams was photographed last month with Defense Minister Peter MacKay and Canada’s top general during an inspection of a Canadian aircraft that was on its way to support relief efforts in Haiti.

    Lieutenant-General Andre Deschamps, Canada’s Air Force chief, said the Air Force is fully supporting civilian police. He called it a difficult period but said the Air Force would provide support for personnel at Trenton.

    Dan Dugas, a spokesman for MacKay, called the charges serious but said MacKay will not comment.

    Police descended on Williams’ Ottawa home on Sunday and police cars remained posted there Monday evening. Williams’ Defense Department biography said he is married.

    Williams once served as a Challenger aircraft pilot who transported VIPs. The Air Force declined to say who he flew but the Challenger regularly flies cabinet ministers and the governor general, Canada’s ceremonial head of sate. A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he didn’t believe Williams flew Harper.

    Between December 2005 and June 2006, Williams was the commanding officer for Camp Mirage, the secretive Canadian Forces forward logistics base that is not officially acknowledged by the government or military but has been widely reported to be near Dubai.

    “We are certainly tracking the movements of where this man has been over the past several years and we’re continuing with our investigation,” Nicholas said.

    Williams walked into a courthouse in Belleville, Ontario on Monday in hand and leg shackles, wearing a blue prison-issue jumpsuit. The judge imposed a publication ban on other details.

    He was held in custody and will appear in court by video on Feb. 18.


  3. Canadian troops heading north to Arctic after Afghan mission

    By Matthew Fisher, Postmedia News October 21, 2010

    PANJWAII, Afghanistan — Canadian troops will soon swap one barren desert for another, as many Afghan veterans deploy to Canada’s Far North late this winter for the first major Arctic exercise after almost 10 years of fighting insurgents in South Asia, according to the new commander of the Canadian army.

    About 600 infantrymen based in Quebec and Alberta will be the first to trade Afghan temperatures that can run as high as 60 C for the -40 C that are common during the winter in Canada’s North. It is part of a strategy to keep young soldiers in the army by giving them fresh challenges, said Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin.

    The move also dovetails nicely with the Conservative government’s frequently stated priority to protect the country’s northern frontiers.

    “The Arctic may not seem very exciting to older guys because they have done it before, but to the vast majority of the army it will be new,” Devlin said after talking up the North in a town hall with frontline troops at a particularly austere forward base in Panjwaii.

    “They will have to learn how to wear our winter gear, move in the snow, be in the harness of a toboggan, light a stove outside their tent without burning it down and to do surveillance and sovereignty operations in the Arctic. To a young guy who has not done it before, it is different and with that difference will come a level of excitement.”

    While acknowledging that the move coincided with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announced intention to bolster Canadian sovereignty in the North, Devlin said that the military purpose of such exercises was to bolster morale and provide meaningful training.

    “I don’t think the army needs to go back to basics, but I think there are some skills — winter warfare would be one good example — where we haven’t had the ability to conduct training for some time,” he said.

    Two soldiers were already in Brazil learning jungle warfare, while some soldiers would be trained for air mobility operations using Canada’s new fleet of Chinook helicopters. There would also be more mountain warfare training and a taste of amphibious operations because Canadian troops had to go ashore in Haiti and in Timor.

    “I do not mean that every year we will have guys going ashore across a beach,” Devlin said, “but it would be useful for our army to have an understanding of the complexity of these operations.”

    Still, the question that has been most on soldiers’ minds for some time has been where Canada might next send them overseas.

    “The army doesn’t need a pause. I’d like you to note that,” Devlin said. “The army is very flexible. If there is a window before we go out again, we will exploit it for training. If there is no window and we are going out the door, I assure Canada that the army will be ready to go.

    “I think that the next conflict will be different than this conflict. Our training plan will adjust for ‘a war,’ rather than ‘the war,’ and that will involve a bit of uncertainty.”

    Equally uncertain is the level of funding for the Armed Forces post-2010.

    “I believe that there will be some resource challenges in the years ahead,” Devlin said. “Part of this is due to the fact that we have enjoyed a certainty of mission and funding to allow the current mission to be as successful as it has been. That additional funding will definitely come to an end in 2011.”

    There have also been persistent rumours here that Ottawa and NATO will soon agree on a training role for Canadian troops in Afghanistan when the combat mission ends next July. If this were to happen, a contribution of about 400 trainers is the number mentioned most often.

    “What does 400 trainers mean?” Devlin said. “Are you looking for the heart of one battalion or are you looking for 400 NCOs (senior enlisted personnel), which is the heart of a lot more than one battalion?”

    Canada still has about 1,250 more infantry on the books than was intended, but that number was dropping and the army remained in good shape after eight years in Kandahar, Kabul and then Kandahar again, the general said.

    “The army has what I call warrior spirit,” he said. “We have a new level of confidence, a new level of skill and a new level of professionalism. We are a professional army capable of full spectrum combat operations and proud of what we have done in combat in Afghanistan. We are proud of the pride that we have instilled domestically and the influence we have gained internationally.”
    © Copyright (c) Postmedia News


  4. Denmark seeking Pole position

    Denmark: Foreign Minister Lene Espersen confirmed on Monday that the country intends to lay claim to the North Pole seabed by 2014.

    Ms Espersen launched a 10-year strategy document which says that Denmark and its autonomous Arctic territories of Greenland and the Faroe Islands had agreed on a common strategy for the region, including producing “documentation for claims to three areas around Greenland, including the North Pole.”

    The Arctic is believed to contain around 30 per cent of the world’s unproven gas reserves and 10 per cent of its unproven oil reserves.


  5. Canada Shifts Troops, Armored Vehicles From Afghanistan To Arctic–canadian-troops-head-to-the-arctic-for-major-military-exercise

    680 Radio News
    January 18, 2012

    Canadian troops head to the Arctic for major military exercise

    The Canadian military is planning a major exercise in the Arctic. This will be the first [of] its size in decades.

    It will be the first time that Canada’s armoured vehicles, used in the heat of Afghanistan, will be tested on the frozen tundra.

    The exercise will allow the army to test its weaponry against defensive positions made out of ice, which can be almost as hard as steel.

    More than 1,500 troops will be deployed for the Arctic Ram exercise which will run from February 14 to 26.


    Kenora Daily Miner And News
    January 20, 2012

    Kenora reserve soldiers train for Arctic Ram winter combat exercise
    By Reg Clayton

    -“With the (withdrawal of Canadian) combat forces from Afghanistan, this is an opportunity to reacquire skills to shoot, move and communicate in high arctic conditions. The ability to operate in the arctic is identified as one of six core tasks under the Canada First Defence Strategy.”

    As if January in Northwestern Ontario isn’t cold enough, two reserve soldiers with Kenora’s 116th Independent Field Battery have volunteered for Arctic Ram; a joint winter combat operations exercise taking place northwest of Yellowknife from Feb. 17 to 27.

    Bombardier Kyle Friesen and Bombardier Brandon Thompson prepared for the deployment by taking part in the Winter Warfare training course in Kenora this week…

    Thompson, who is from Fort Frances, is looking forward to participating in Arctic Ram with friends from other artillery units he’s known since basic training and other courses he’s been on during his three years with the Kenora reserve.

    Capt. Jon Baker explained the 116th Independent Field is one of three artillery components attached to 38 Brigade Group responsible for all army reserve units in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. Friesen and Thompson will participate in Arctic Ram along with reserve and regular forces soldiers from Edmonton, Shilo and the 1st Canadian Mechanized Unit.

    “With the (withdrawal of Canadian) combat forces from Afghanistan, this is an opportunity to reacquire skills to shoot, move and communicate in high arctic conditions,” Baker said. “The ability to operate in the arctic is identified as one of six core tasks under the Canada First Defence Strategy.”

    Last year five Kenora reservists took part in Northern Bison 2011. The joint training exercise of the 38 Brigade designated arctic response company group put their cold weather training to the test as 265 soldier travelled more than 300 kilometre by snowmobile from Churchill, Manitoba to Arviat, Nunavut.


    Canada Intensifies New Cold War With Russia In Arctic

    Postmedia News
    January 20, 2012

    Canada in ‘Cold War lite’ with Russia: experts
    By Jeff Davis

    -Former Canadian ambassador to Russia Christopher Westdal said the Harper government took office with deep “Russo-phobic” instincts, similar to American neo-conservatives in the Bush administration.
    -After taking power, the Harper government also advocated very aggressively for the acceptance of former Eastern Bloc countries in NATO. Framing this as a quest to finally free central European countries from Russian influence, Canada was among the biggest cheerleaders for countries like Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia to join the Western security alliance. Russia expressed deep displeasure at this push by NATO into its traditional sphere of influence.
    -Beyond diaspora politics, the Tories have used the perceived Russian military threat to justify expensive purchases of military aircraft.
    Defence Minister Peter MacKay loudly accused the Russians of provocation on the eve of President Barack Obama’s 2009 visit to Ottawa, telling the public a Russian bomber approached Canadian airspace.
    “Back off and stay out of our airspace,” MacKay said at the time, sparking a media firestorm.

    Canada and Russia are waging a “Cold War lite” two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, experts say, following news that a Canadian naval officer was slapped with espionage charges and accused of selling top-secret information to a foreign entity.

    Professor Piotr Dutkiewicz, director of the Institute of European and Russian Studies at Carleton University, said the Harper government’s thinking toward Russia is outmoded.

    “The Canadian government is stuck in a Cold-War mentality,” he said. “We now have a Cold War lite.”

    Although official diplomatic relations have proceeded steadily under the Harper government, there is a layer of frost on the relationship that is hampering closer ties and more trade, observers say.

    This, they say, is in large part due to confrontational and inflammatory political messages from the Harper government, rooted in a deep, emotional distrust of Russia.

    Former Canadian ambassador to Russia Christopher Westdal said the Harper government took office with deep “Russo-phobic” instincts, similar to American neo-conservatives in the Bush administration.

    Relations between Canada and Russia have suffered as a result, he said.

    “Harper came with that baggage of deep suspicion of Russia,” Westdal said. “It has been discouraging for anyone hoping for better Canada-Russia relations for some years.”

    Dutkiewicz said although Russian and Canadian ministers and officials meet regularly, very little comes of it all.

    “At the ministerial level there are meetings, but there is no follow-up,” he said. “It seems to me there is no vigour in this relationship.”

    There has not been a significant improvement in bilateral relations since the 1990s, Dutkiewicz said. Trade volumes have stalled out at about $2 billion per year, which he said is a smaller volume of trade than Canada conducts with some small countries in Latin America.

    While Canadian firms are eager to do business in Russia, Westdal said, they receive very little political support from the government. The government sponsors trade missions to many countries, he said, but those looking to trade with Russia “don’t get much help, or the royal blessing.”

    Dutkiewicz said the Cold War was really about an acute lack of trust, and that in this sense, very little has changed for Canada.

    “Formally, the Cold war is over, but this Cold War lite is alive in hearts and minds of bureaucrats,” he said. “We simply do not trust them.”

    There exists only a “very thin layer of relations” between Canada and Russia, Dutkiewicz said. He said Canada has no apparent policy direction on Russia, and that Canadian actions have been haphazard and reactive as a result.

    “We have had, for the last couple of years, no coherent strategy towards Russia,” he said. “Something is happening and we are reacting, and in most cases overreacting.”

    A clear thread running through Canada’s relations with Russia, Westdal said, are actions calculated to score political points with new Canadians hailing from former Eastern Bloc countries. Since taking power, he said, the Harper government has taken many actions on the world stage seem calculated to please Canadians from Eastern Europe, the Baltics and the Balkans, many of whom harbour a deep resentment toward Russia.

    “Those diaspora constituencies have been assiduously cultivated by (Immigration Minister) Jason Kenney and others in the government,” he said. “There is nothing new or secret on that.”

    Kenney has made a number of high-profile symbolic overtures to these countries. For example, the Canadian government recognized the Holodomor — the “killing by hunger” inflicted on Ukraine while it was a Soviet republic in the 1930s — as a genocide. Much to the satisfaction of Ukraine and its diaspora, Canada in effect recognized Moscow’s policies at the time as culpable for the deaths of millions.

    After taking power, the Harper government also advocated very aggressively for the acceptance of former Eastern Bloc countries in NATO. Framing this as a quest to finally free central European countries from Russian influence, Canada was among the biggest cheerleaders for countries like Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia to join the Western security alliance. Russia expressed deep displeasure at this push by NATO into its traditional sphere of influence.

    All of these moves, Westdal said, appear to have been calculated to build electoral support among diaspora voters, such as the large number of Ukrainian-Canadians in Manitoba who traditionally have voted NDP.

    Beyond diaspora politics, the Tories have used the perceived Russian military threat to justify expensive purchases of military aircraft.

    Defence Minister Peter MacKay loudly accused the Russians of provocation on the eve of President Barack Obama’s 2009 visit to Ottawa, telling the public a Russian bomber approached Canadian airspace.

    “Back off and stay out of our airspace,” MacKay said at the time, sparking a media firestorm.

    NORAD officials, unlike MacKay, were quick to say Russian pilots were “professional” in their conduct, and underscored the fact there was no violation of Canadian airspace.

    Former Office of the Prime Minister spokesman Dimitri Soudas played this card again in August 2010, saying the Russian threat justifies Canada’s purchase of F-35 stealth interceptors.

    “It is the best plane our government could provide our Forces, and when you are a pilot staring down Russian long-range bombers, that’s an important fact to remember,” Soudas said.

    Loud protests were also made by the Canadian government after a Russian submarine planted a Russian flag on the Arctic sea floor in 2007.

    Retired Colonel Alain Pellerin, executive Director of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, said the Russian military threat is on the wane.

    Large parts of the once-mighty Soviet military machine have rusted out, he said, with whole fleets of submarines and aircraft having degraded beyond repair.

    “As a military threat, I don’t see it,” he said. “Their military equipment has deteriorated a lot in the last 20 years, mainly due to poor maintenance.”

    Nevertheless, he said, diplomatic attempts to smooth relations between Russia and the West — such as the NATO-Russia Council — have borne little fruit.

    Pellerin said Russia has not lived up to the high hopes for democratization following the fall of the Soviet Union, to the profound disappointment of many in Canada and throughout the West.

    The mounting need for co-ordination and co-operation in the High Arctic, Pellerin said, is the place he’s looking for a breakthrough in chilled bilateral relations.


  6. Canada Conducts Another Arctic Military Exercise

    CBC News
    March 5, 2012

    Military exercise underway in Nunavik
    Troops learning to work in Arctic conditions

    Another major military exercise is underway in the North, this time in Nunavik.

    More than 200 reservists arrived in Salluit, Que., over the weekend. They’re from the 35th Canadian Brigade Group in Quebec City.

    Operation ‘Guerrier Nordique’ will have them skiing, building igloos, and doing some target practice.

    Frenette says an Arctic-ready military becomes more important as the Northwest Passage opens to more traffic.

    Last year, the 35th brigade did similar training exercises but further south on James Bay. Frenette says coming to Nunavik “cranked up the difficulty level”.

    Last month, another major military exercise – Arctic Ram – was held in Yellowknife.


    U.S. Navy Pursues “Road Map To The Arctic”

    Office of Senator Lisa Murkowski
    March 7, 2012

    Murkowski Discusses “Road Map to the Arctic” With U.S. Navy

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Murkowski today asked Secretary of the United States Navy Ray Mabus whether the Navy is fully considering Alaska’s evolving Arctic opportunities in its future plans – particularly with the shifting focus towards Asia and the Pacific.

    “We’ve got 5,580 miles of coastline that touch the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. As we all know, this coastline is becoming more accessible – which presents opportunities, but challenges as well,” said Murkowski. “Can you inform me what the Navy has been doing to get up to speed on the changing Arctic and what the near term holds for Navy involvement?”

    Secretary Mabus told the Senator that the Navy has a “Road Map to the Arctic” plan they are following for the future, doing submarine exercises in the Arctic and conducting at least three ongoing operations in the Arctic – but that ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty would be helpful in giving them a “seat at the table” and allowing them to stake claims and move forward to enable new military and commercial operations.


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