Saturday, September 24, 2011

 

COMMANDER PUTIN IN CHARGE

I don't know what the correct course of action is, much less a solution, to the dilemna Canadians face over Arctic sovereignty. I just know that the one we're on now isn't making us any friends, and in the long term probably won't make much difference over how the rest of the world divides-up the resources of the northern pole's lands and seas.

Prime Minister Harper has made it a priority of his government to increase the nation's presence in the North as the countries of the Arctic Council eye the vast amount of oil and the many other resources in the area. The Council created in 1996, includes Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the United States. Though Canadians may assume that we hold claim to much of the Arctic continent, check-out this list and it's pretty obvious who the big players are: America, which despite its moribund economic outlook is still a "superpower," and the Russians who with Vladimir Putin soon back in charge expect to regain post Communist bloc superpower status within the next decade or less.

Appearing before Parliament's Committee on Defence a year ago in October 2010, the Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, Michael Byers, warned that Canada's planned purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) could cause "angst in Russia" and trigger an arms race over the Arctic.



Before becoming Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister last winter, Nigel Wright was closely associated with a major U.S. aircraft manufacturer (Hawker Beechcraft) that is partnered with Lockheed-Martin with whom Canada has a sole-source multi-billion dollar contract to purchase the F-35 JSF being developed for the American military.

Though Canada's Defence Ministry remains steadfast in its willingness to buy the jet fighters as replacement for our fleet of CF-18's; defence analysts, some Members of Congress, and an ever increasing number of pundits, critics and bloggers south of the border aren't even sure the stealth fighter will ever make it into full production. The F-35's skyrocketing development costs estimated at $1-Trillion have placed the plane at the top of potential military program cuts as the United-States staggers under the weight of uncontrolled spending and debt.

Regardless of the fallout in America, on the other side of the North Pole the Russians it seems aren't waiting any longer to confirm the ominous prediction from U.B.C.'s professor Michael Byers. Pretty much secure in the knowledge that former President Putin, currently Prime Minister Putin, will once more be President Putin by 2012, after the present President (Dmitriy Medvedev)announced this weekend he's bowing-out in favour of Putin's return: The Russians have just announced they are substantially increasing Arctic military presence.

Here at home both the Minister of Defence, Peter MacKay, and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Walter Natynczyk, have been chastised for their personal (perhaps frivolous) use of military aircraft. But much more significant of the deteriorating consideration Russians hold for Canada's military and our Arctic plans, their announcement followed within hours a 3-day visit by Natynczyk to Moscow which, according to DND, was to..."gain the Russian perspective on a range of issues to improve and develop Canada's military relationship with Russia." Meantime Putin was in Iceland announcing that the country would be building a total of 9 ice-breakers to expand transportation in the Arctic. The announcement follows a July commitment to establish a 2000 soldier permanent force based in the Arctic, just a month before Canada's three week long fly-in / fly-out "Operation Nanook" in the North. By the way, Russia has permanently staffed Ice Station Borneo (about 40 miles from the North Pole) since 1996 and it's made it clear on several occasions in the recent past that NATO isn't welcomed on the frozen continent. - Which pretty much explains why the course we're on up there is not likely to work to our ultimate favour and advantage.

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