Canada warns Russia not to send the wrong message with military buildup in the Arctic

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird walks past a map of the Arctic at a news conference on Canada's Arctic claim in Ottawa, Monday, Dec.9, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Recent actions taken by Canada and Russia in a land dispute over the resource-rich Arctic circle says just about everything there is to know about the countries in question.

Canada officials have filed a claim on Arctic land based on a mostly-finished study of the Arctic seabed. And while the claim does not yet extend as far as the North Pole, more is in the works. Meantime, Russia is beefing up its military might in the area and claiming the land as its own.

On Monday, Canada submitted a claim to the United Nations for seabed rights in the far north, leaving Canada stumbling towards a frigid conflict over the frozen land. Russia's response was to flex its muscle. But Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs has a message for Russia: tread lightly.

Rick Roth, director of communications to Canada’s Foreign Ministry, told Yahoo Canada News that Canada is determined to assert and defend its sovereignty in the Arctic.

“We will do so in adherence to International Law, and through science-based measures,” Roth said in an email. “We will also continue our co-operation with our partners in the Arctic, as a responsible neighbour should.

“We offer no advice to Russia, but merely point out that they should be cognisant of the message they’re sending to neighbours.”

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Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird referred to the Arctic as "Canada's Far North" on Monday. He went on to say that they were not in a race to the North Pole, despite conflicting claims of ownership from Denmark and Russia.

If there isn't a race to the North Pole, someone ought to tell Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin ordered Russian military to expand its might in the Arctic just one day after Canada made its land claim.

Russia Today reports that Putin announced in televised remarks that Russia would "devote special attention to deploying infrastructure and military units in the Arctic."

Earlier this year, Russia announced it would resume a permanent Arctic military presence. It's military base in at the New Siberian Islands, decommissioned in 1993, is being reinstated and airfields are being restored. Russia will also reportedly commission 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles, some 200 military aircrafts and two nuclear submarines for the area.

Canada's military might in the Arctic is comparably limited, although Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised the creation of permanent Canadian Forces Ranger units and the deployment of military ships.

Earlier this year, the public learned of a strategy involving stealth snowmobiles that would patrol the Arctic regions of Canada.

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In today's modern era, it is unfathomable that the international world would allow an Arctic boundary debate to descend into a military conflict.

The question of who owns what will come down to the UN's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. A UN convention states that land should be split up by geographical makeup of the continental shelf.

This suggests that if Canada ever gets around to finishing its map of the Arctic seabed, it could expand its land claim to include the North Pole. Russia itself surely has steps to take beyond flexing its military might.

This might not be a race. But while Canada is arguing semantics with officials, Russia is lacing up its runners.