A commander with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has stated that Canada has no chance of matching Russia’s military capabilities in the Arctic.
According to Defence Chief Gen. Wayne Eyre, Canada cannot hope to maintain a permanent presence in the north, but instead will only deploy troops where necessary.
Eyre appeared before a Senate committee earlier this week as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Anita Anand met with premiers from Canada’s territories – Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
“We are continuing to stand strong in our sovereignty and our defence of the Arctic,” said Trudeau. “Of course, with Norad modernization on the table, with increased investments in defence, the Arctic is an area we’re going to look closely.”
Over the past few years, Russia has expanded its Arctic presence with bases littering the entire region. Satellite images show Russian expansion and strengthening of airfields along Russia’s Arctic coast.
“Russia is refurbishing Soviet-era airfields and radar installations, constructing new ports and search-and-rescue centers, and building up its fleet of nuclear- and conventionally-powered icebreakers,” Pentagon spokesman Thomas Campbell told CNN in 2021.
In March, it was also revealed that Russian forces had recently reoccupied more bases used by the former Soviet Union.
“One of the challenges, one of the expressions of sovereignty is being able to project force to the extremities of your country,” Eyre told a Defence Conference earlier this year.
Russian forces have also crossed into disputed territory as numerous nations vie to make claims on the Arctic. For example, in Jan. 2020, NORAD warned that two nuclear-capable Russian bombers had buzzed Canadian airspace. The jets crossed over the North Pole and approached Canada, although they remained in international airspace.
The UK’s Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Sir Nick Carter has said that his nation is “keen to cooperate” with Canadians on Arctic defence.
Conservative leadership candidate Jean Charest also recently proposed that Canada develop more military bases in the arctic. As part of his defence plan, Charest stated that if elected prime minister, he would “develop and properly support two military bases in the arctic, including a deepwater port.”
Additionally, Charest’s plan included having drones surveil the north and to procure two armed icebreakers.