Arctic

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]

Canada’s northern presence ineffectual

A report today from the Office of the Auditor General says that Canada lacks a complete picture of who is entering or traversing Arctic waters, partly due to the fact that a naval surveillance station can only operate four weeks a year. Overall, it says, the country cannot stay on top of threats to national security, illegal fishing or pollution posed by marine traffic which has tripled in recent years as sea ice diminishes. [node:read-more:link]

Arctic summer ice loss accelerating

A State of the Cryosphere report released at the latest UN global climate change conference predicts that the Arctic will lose its entire summer sea ice cover at least once in the next few decades and probably more frequently “It's a threshold tipped,” Pamela Pearson, a former U.S. diplomat and one of the report’s editors, said November 7. “Loss of summer sea ice is now inevitable.” [node:read-more:link]

Global warming irreversible?

As representatives from most nations gathered in Egypt for the latest global climate conference, the World Meteorological Organization sounded yet another warning about the accelerating impact of global warming. WMO chief Petteri Taalas said “there are no positive indicators so far” and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the agency’s report as “a chronicle of climate chaos.” [node:read-more:link]

Canada’s has “tenuous hold” on Arctic

The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Wayne Eyre, has told the House of Commons standing committee on national defence that Canada’s “tenuous hold” on its Arctic territories will come under increasing challenge in the decades ahead as China and Russia expand their presence. He also mooted the notion that an increasingly isolated Russia could become a Chinese “vassal state” because of its increasing reliance on its neighbour. [node:read-more:link]

U.S. updates Arctic strategy

Concerned about increased Chinese and Russian activity in the Arctic, made possible by global warming, the U.S. Administration has released a 10-year strategy paper advocating an enhanced U.S. presence in the region and more exercises with allies. It also recommends modernizing NORAD, more icebreakers, and better mapping and charting. [node:read-more:link]

Stoltenberg visits Canadian Arctic

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is in the Canadian North this week for an unprecedented tour of defence installations. Officials say the visit is meant to highlight that the region is a security priority, in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and issues related to climate change. [node:read-more:link]

Arctic Defence Chiefs meet in Canada

Chief of the Defence Staff General Wayne Eyre concluded the 2022 meeting of the Arctic Chiefs of Defence in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Canada hosted representatives from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and the United States to share lessons learned from ongoing Arctic operations and to coordinate enhanced cooperation. [node:read-more:link]

Arctic deployment for RCN trio

HMCS Margaret Brooke, the RCN’s second offshore patrol vessel, left Halifax Aug. 2 with the coastal defence vessel HMCS Goose Bay for a two-month Arctic deployment. They are to be followed by the first OPV, HMCS Harry DeWolfe, for the latest Operation Nanook, working with U.S. Coast Guard as well as Danish and French navy vessels. [node:read-more:link]

New Russian naval doctrine

Russian President Vladimir Putin marked Navy Day July 31 by signing a new naval doctrine which sets out his country’s global maritime ambitions for crucial areas such as the Arctic and in the Black Sea. Among other things, the 55-page document says it is U.S. “strategic policy . . . to dominate the world's oceans” and highlights the movement of NATO assets closer to Russia's borders. [node:read-more:link]

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