Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino "says he’s confident Canada can hold its own when it comes to defending the Arctic in the face of any threats from Russia." Sounds like empty boasting or incredible commitments but there is something to this.
No, it is not about the small exercises that Canada has in the far north that demonstrate a capability to deal with the Russian menace. No, it is precisely the reality that operating in the far north is so very expensive and so very difficult that Canada has invested far less than promised. Whuck?
"Hold its own" is not so much about what the Canadians can send to the Arctic, but a basic reality that the Russians, to threaten Canada's ability to hold its own, would have to not only get stuff to the highest part of the Russian Arctic but then move it even further to the Canadian side and then sustain it. And that is truly difficult.
People do not really appreciate how far away these places are, but the length of time for rescue ships, for instance, to get up to the northwest passage is measured in months, not days. Yes, the Russians are building bases in their side of the Arctic, including air defenses that can reach out beyond their territory. But to be a serious threat, Russia would need more--the ability to extend its control and stick with it. The stopping power of water is something the Realists get right, and when combined with the cold climes (Arctic may be getting warmer but it ain't warm), it is very difficult to operate over long distances and/or for long periods of time.
So, Canada can hold its own in the Arctic not so much because it has much capabilities, but because the Russians are still not that close and are not likely to be able to maintain their ops over a long time. A nice comparison is China's island building campaign in the East/South China seas. Is anything like that imaginable in the far north? Only if one is really drunk or high.
I am not an expert on the Arctic, but the few basic facts suggest that defense is far easier than offense way the hell up there. So, it is not time to panic. And if the Russians want to keep sinking lots of money in the Arctic, let them. Don't interrupt an adversary when they are making a mistake, Napoleon said. He got much many things wrong, but that is not one of them.
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