Russia and Canada rattling their military sabres over claims to Arctic oil and gas

John Size
Canada Politics

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

And, they are literally but not to invade Canada, but certainly to lay claim to vast stretches of the Arctic that could hold up to one quarter of the world's untapped oil and gas.

Stephen Harper and Minister of Defence Peter MacKay haven't kept Canada's Arctic ambitions and claim to sovereignty in the Far North a military secret, rattling the Russians into rhetoric like we're the ones fomenting another "Cold War."

MacKay, no foil by any stretch of the imagination, understands what the Russians are up to, and announced a massive military exercise in the Arctic this summer - one of the largest in recent history - without actually mentioning the Russians of course.

In other words as operation Kandahar comes to a close in the coming weeks, operation Arctic, or as it's really called, Operation Nanook, will commence and last for a month involving most branches of the military, including CF-18 fighters and about 1,000 troops.

The operation will cover Baffin and Ellesmere islands - not lost on the fact these form the entrance to any Northwest Passage that might open up due to global warming as Arctic ice recedes.

"All of this is very much about enlarging the footprint and the permanent and seasonal presence we have in the North,'' MacKay told the Globe and Mail.

Our military footprint announcement comes mere weeks after the Russians plan to deploy two army brigades in the region to protect its interests.

Coincidence? Probably not.

Harper has made it clear Arctic sovereignty is one of his key policy objectives and he's certainly not going to let the Russian army or its air force get in the way.

For his part, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said his country is "open to dialogue" with its Arctic neighbours, and yet announced plans for a permanent $33 billion port in its north.

So, the question must be asked, are we headed for a confrontation with the Russians military or otherwise?

It's a distinct possibility depending on how the United Nations rules on who can actually lay claim to the Arctic's resources and how much parties like Russia, Denmark and Canada are willing to negotiate.

But if history provides any examples, oil tends to bring out the worst in people.

(CP Photo)