Utility of Arctic Council questioned

Russia’s two-year term as Arctic Council chair ended today, leaving the body’s role for international collaboration in doubt. Now chaired by Norway, Russia’s leadership waned as the seven other Arctic states suspended cooperation when it invaded Ukraine. “It leaves the concept somewhat in tatters,” a U.S. analyst says. “Russia makes up about half the Arctic. You can't really have an Arctic Council without Russia.” [node:read-more:link]

China extends polar footprint

The 1959 Antarctic Treaty stipulates that continent could not be used for military purposes, but the evolution of dual-use technologies is raising concerns about China, which has a growing interest in the Arctic, building a fifth Antarctic base which could be used to monitor communications in southern regions. [node:read-more:link]

Norway expels 15 Russians

Fifteen Russians accused of “covert intelligence activities” under diplomatic cover have been expelled by Norway, which shares a 197-kilometre Arctic border with Russia. The foreign ministry says the officials had been monitored “over time” before they were ordered out and it says Russia is the “greatest intelligence threat” facing Norway against a backdrop of Europe's “deteriorating security situation.” [node:read-more:link]

Curious alliances in the Arctic

Russia is following up 12 days of Arctic gear testing with multilateral drills April 6-7 which will involve nine non-Arctic nations from Africa, Latin America and Eurasia. The activities follow increased NATO cooperation in the region such as the month-long Arctic Forge exercise involving 16 member-states which ended March 17. [node:read-more:link]

Growing U.S. interest in North

A decision by the U.S. Administration to nominate Alaskan geographer Mike Sfraga as an ambassador-at-large for the Arctic is seen as a direct response to Russia’s ramped-up northern military presence and Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski says that dealing with national security threats from China as well as Russia and China in the region will be a challenge. [node:read-more:link]

Defence spending confirmed

Canada plans to invest $7.3 billion to upgrade fighter bases and northern landing strips to accommodate its ordered Lockheed Martin F-35s, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office announced March 24. Also confirmed during President Joe Biden’s visi to Ottawa, the government also said that the first new Over the Horizon Radar base will be in northern Ontario, part of a 20-year upgrade of continental air defences. [node:read-more:link]

Joly calls China increasingly disruptive

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said today that NORAD will takes a strong stance to protect Arctic sovereignty as more reports of foreign interference emerge. “We will challenge China when we ought to, and we will cooperate with China when we need to,” she said. “When it comes to issues over the Arctic within our maritime borders, or any form of foreign interference, we will be clear. [node:read-more:link]

Canada seizes Chinese buoys in Arctic

Chinese monitoring buoys in the Arctic, located and retrieved by the Canadian Armed Forces, adds to a list of pressing concerns about Beijing’s interventions in Canadian affairs. The buoys were spotted during Operation Limpid, an ongoing effort to provide early detection of potential security threats. [node:read-more:link]

The “Russian Arctic Threat”

Despite Russia’s commitment of apparently dwindling resources to its invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s Northern Fleet’s ballistic missile submarine and strategic bomber capabilities remain intact, according to a report this week from the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. its authors note that the Arctic remains “of great strategic value”, especially the Kola Peninsula as a gateway for attack and ballistic missile submarines to reach the Atlantic. [node:read-more:link]

Two more AOPS contracted

Irving Shipbuilding and the federal government have finalized a $1.6-billion contract to build two additional Arctic and offshore patrol ships for the Canadian Coast Guard. “We're going to further grow our team . . . as we look to 2025 building these ships,” the company’s vice-president of communications, Mary Keith, said January 4. [node:read-more:link]

NORAD upgrade a huge challenge

Since Canada announced its plan last June to spend $4.9 billion over six years to modernize North American defences, it has become clear that there are significant technical obstacles to overcome. Improved satellite coverage, over-the-horizon radar and deployment of undersea sensors and surveillance in the Arctic are among them and while Vice-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie, head of Canadian Joint Operations Command, says Canada has “decent domain awareness right now”, it continues to work with the U.S. on key elements of the NORAD upgrade. [node:read-more:link]

Russia’s Arctic buildup continues

New satellite imagery from Colorado-based Maxar Technologies shows that despite the financial impact of its war on Ukraine, Russia continues to expand its Arctic footprint with upgraded radar and other facilities. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the “significant” build-up” has required the alliance to “double” its presence in the region. [node:read-more:link]

Problems in the Navy’s AOPS fleet

The Royal Canadian Navy’s Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship, HMCS Harry DeWolf, is expected to be out of service until April because of problems with its main diesel generators. Since Irving Shipbuilding’s warranty has expired, taxpayers are on the hook for repairs to the AOPS flagship, which was delivered to the Navy in July 2020. Meanwhile, the third in the fleet, HMCS Max Bernays, accepted from Irving in September 2022, is having bowthruster issues. The navy also plans to have a look at the second of a planned six AOPS, HMCS Margaret Brooke, which was delivered in July 2021. [node:read-more:link]

Russia launches two nuclear icebreakers

A flag-raising ceremony and dock launch today for two Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers tasked with ensuring year-round operations in the Western Arctic was attended remotely by President Vladimir Putin. “Both icebreakers were laid down as part of a large serial project and are part of our large-scale, systematic work to re-equip and replenish the domestic icebreaker fleet, to strengthen Russia’s status as a great Arctic power,” Putin said. He also said his country’s current economic difficulties would not stop further development of the fleet. [node:read-more:link]


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