Arctic: Canada Leads NATO Confrontation With Russia

Continuing the pattern by top Canadian federal officials over the past year of issuing blunt and bravado statements aimed at Russia over the Arctic, on August 1 Defence Minister Peter MacKay was paraphrased as “warn[ing] Russia that Canuck fighter jets will scramble to meet any unauthorized aircraft” as a mainstream Canadian news agency less than delicately phrased it, and thundered that “Canadian fighter jets would scramble to ‘meet’ any Russian aircraft ‘approaching’ Canada’s airspace.” [1]

MacKay said that “We’re going to protect our sovereign territory,” [2] though transparently the message was directed solely against Russia, which in no manner endangers Canada’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and not the United States, which does.

In another account of MacKay’s comments, this time indicating that he was speaking in response to a report that Russia plans to drop a small detachment of paratroopers almost a year from now in a part of the Arctic it has internationally recognized rights to, the defence chief was quoted as saying “We have scrambled F-18 jets in the past, and they’ll always be there to meet them.” [3] 

He appears to have grabbed what passes in Ottawa as a rhetorical flourish from the wrong context, however, that of “protecting Canadian airspace” from Russian long-range bombers flying in international airspace in a fashion that doesn’t violate either Canada’s territory or any treaty or law. Though the same report concedes that “MacKay said there have been no recent intrusions of Russian bombers.” [4]

MacKay’s latest saber rattling is fully in keeping with a string of comparable diatribes from the trio of Canada’s prime, defence and foreign ministers going back a year to the five-day war between Georgia and Russia, revealingly enough.

Last August Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused Russia of reverting to a “Soviet-era mentality” and the next month MacKay followed suit with “When we see a Russian Bear [Tupolev Tu-95] approaching Canadian air space, we meet them with an F-18.” It’s now been nearly a year of Canada’s defence minister threatening Russia with F-18s, multirole fighter jets produced by Chicago-based Boeing. MacKay brandishing US warplanes is proper to the circumstances as he is also reflecting and representing American and NATO designs on the Arctic and against Russian claims and interests there.
This February Barack Obama paid his first visit outside the United States as president of the country, visiting Ottawa and Prime Minister Harper. The latter’s government chose that occasion to stage a contrived stunt that in a more serious situation would have signaled a lead-up to war or that could have precipitated one. Canada scrambled warplanes over the Arctic Ocean to intercept and turn back Russian bombers engaged in what since 2007 have been routine flights in neutral airspace.  

With the newly inaugurated American president present to guarantee maximum attention in the world media, the Canadian prime minister said, “We will defend our airspace, we also have obligations of continental defence with the United States. We will fulfil those obligations to defend our continental airspace, and we will defend our sovereignty and we will respond every time the Russians make any kind of intrusion on the sovereignty in Canada’s Arctic.” [5]

The Russian planes in question in no manner intruded into Canadian airspace and as such didn’t threaten the nation’s “sovereignty.”

That Harper highlighted “obligations of continental defence with the United States” in reference to the visit of the US president and some fantastical “threat” posed by a Russian bomber several thousand kilometers away from the Canadian capital where Obama was at the time perhaps was intended to both prove Ottawa’s value to its southern neighbor – after all, Harper and MacKay postured as having saved the American head of state from a fictitious Russian bombing run – and to demonstrate that as “continental defence” is a reciprocal affair the world superpower stood behind it in any future confrontation with Russia.

The third member of Canada’s bellicose triumvirate, Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon, who while addressing Russia in March stated “Let’s be perfectly clear here. Canada will not be bullied,” at the end of this June referred to Canada as both an Arctic and an energy “superpower.”

A Canadian newswire service at the time wrote that “Downplaying Russia’s recent ‘jockeying’ for position in the emerging polar oil rush, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has declared Canada an ‘Arctic superpower.'” [6]...READ


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