Canada Must Compete for Control of the Arctic

In what could be seen as evidence the Russian military has a sense of humour, it has announced it is about to begin construction of its new nuclear-missile-carrying submarine, the Saint Nicolas. If based in Murmansk, as is the norm, it will spend some time at the North Pole, although I doubt anyone will want to receive the presents this “St. Nick” can deliver.

The Americans have just announced that the USS Texas – a brand-new, Virginia-class attack submarine – has surfaced at the North Pole. Until now, conventional wisdom held that this class of submarine was not designed for use in Arctic waters. With the arrival of the Texas at the North Pole, however, it seems that either “conventional wisdom” was wrong or the Americans have taken steps to modify the Virginia-class sub's abilities. Thus, Canadians have just been reminded that the Russians are continuing to build brand-new submarines for use in the Arctic, and that American submarines can and do go there. If the Cold War in the Arctic is over, it seems somebody forgot to tell the Americans and the Russians.

To their credit, Canadian leaders and officials are aware the Arctic is going to become a busier place for the world's navies. Both the Liberals, with Paul Martin's short-lived International Policy Statement, and the Conservatives, with Stephen Harper's long-awaited Arctic strategy, have pointed out that while Canada wishes that the world's navies would not come to our backyard, Canada must have the capabilities to know and act when they do.

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