Friday, June 26, 2009



When the American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Niagara Falls about ten days ago she raised with her Canadian counterpart, Lawrence Cannon, the spectre of "Arctic Sovereignty". (see: "Another Banana Republic" June 14/09) Canada controls the Northwest Passage, but the Americans call it an international waterway.

In a wide ranging interview with the Canadian Press recently, our new Chief of Maritime Staff has echoed the call of recent Prime-Ministers, including Stephen Harper, that the Canadian Navy is the best hope to patrol the Arctic waters..."It's about sovereignty; it's about jurisdiction," Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden told C.P.

But, according to the President of the University of the Arctic, Lars Kullerud, the talk of, and the additional military activity in the Arctic Ocean, is just bull..."It's hype to talk of a 'cold' war", he says. The University of the Arctic is an international cooperative network of universities, colleges and research institutes involving eight different countries, including Canada.

Still, a cornerstone of our Government's "Northern Strategy" is to build 6 Arctic patrol ships (to be delivered in 2014). The Russians are increasingly aggressive in flying patrol bombers ever closer to Canada, and last year sent a nuclear submarine across the Arctic to the Pacific Ocean. Norway recently bought 48 Lockheed-Martin F-35 jet planes for "exploration". And...apropos Secretary of State Clinton: A secret U.S. Navy project is building "quieter" nuclear submarines.

Since the dawn of man, the area around the Arctic Ocean has been too remote, too cold and too dark to be of any interest. A warming trend and thaw of the ice linked with climate change have stirred-up oil and gas exploration and mining; as well as created new potential shipping routes and fishing grounds.

All perfectly valid and legitimate reasons it seems for the six countries that surround the Arctic Ocean to seek their share. Still though, as Mrs. Clinton echoed in her Niagara Falls comments, the Arctic nations are promising to avoid a new "Cold War" and cooperate rather on the challenges brought-on by the melting icecap. University President Kullerrud told Reuters: "The Arctic area would be of interest in 50 or 100 years - not now."

I am somehow not quite reassured by his optimism...still though. I hope he's right.

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