There is an interesting tidbit in a Norwegian journal The Independent Barnett’s Observer, which describes itself as “a journalist owned online newspaper covering the Barents Region and the Arctic … [with] … a devotion for cross-border cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding, the Independent Barents Observer provides daily news reports from and about Scandinavia, Russia and the Circumpolar Arctic.“
“New Arctic military base is declared ready for operation,” says the headline, and the story (from mid December 2016) explains that “In September 2013, a flotilla of three Northern Fleet vessels, seven support vessels and four nuclear icebreakers moored on the coast of island Kotelny in the remote New Siberian Islands. In a complicated operation, more than ten thousand tons of equipment and construction modules were loaded to land … [and] … In a direct video link with President Vladimir Putin, Northern Fleet Head Commander Vladimir Korolev reported that operations were proceeding in accordance with plans … [now (December 2016)] … Two years later, the new Northern Fleet base stands ready for use … [and] … State engineering and construction company Spetsstroy confirms that a total of 42 buildings and infrastructure objects on site have been officially approved … It is Russia’s northernmost military base, located on the 75th parallel … Included in the project is the upgraded Temp airfield and the 12,000 square meter big trefoil-shaped Severny Klever housing and administration complex. The facility includes all equipment needed for comfortable living for more than 250 people, Spetsstroy informs.“
Back in the late summer of the 2013 the Globe and Mail reported that “The deep-water port at Nanisivik, Nunavut, remains under the control of the federal fisheries department, six years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced with much fanfare the establishment of a naval refuelling station high in the northern archipelago.” It’s now been ten years since Prime Minister Harper promised a small northern base at Nanisivik, which is at 73°N.
The Russians have several more Arctic bases under construction, all part of a programme to assert itself in that region and, using “facts on the ground” stretch its “sphere of influence” there, too.
Where is Canada?
The Nanisivik project was cut back in 2012, becoming even more modest, just as the Russians were ramping up their Arctic base projects.
In my opinion Canada needs:
- Several quick access forward operating bases for the CF-18s and their eventual replacement. The RCAF has four such Forward Operating Locations at Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit. I think one more is needed, at Nanisivik which means that (abandoned) “jet capable airstrip” needs to be restored to the plan and expanded into a year-round, jet fighter capable airport with all the appropriate radars and NavAids and so on; and
- Three Northern “stations” at Inuvik/Tuktoyaktuk, Nanisivik and Iqaluit able to support the new Artic Offshore Patrol Ships, C-130J aircraft, year round, and ground forces, also year round. That means more people and more money and more focus on the Defence of Canada.
The original plan for Nanisivik was, always, just barely adequate. This is how it is, now, imagined by military planners and engineers …
… it needs much more: beginning with a year round, CF-18 (and replacement) capable Forward Operating Location and a permanent, staffed “base” through which ground forces may stage before deploying to conduct training and sovereignty patrols.
I do not think we need to have anything as large as the new Russian base at Kotelny, pictured above, but we should not be ignoring the Arctic.
I understand that Prime Minister Trudeau, supported by many Liberals, wants to just ignore the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, ideally starving the CF into strategic and political irrelevance, but a combination of Vladimir Putin and Donal Trump may make that impossible. I believe that, in 2017, Justin Trudeau will be forced to abandon large parts of his sunny ways, feminist and green agenda and respond to Putin provocations and Trump’s demands and become, once again, a robust champion of Canada in a dangerous world. To do that he needs to “toughen up” and give our armed forces the resources they need to be strong, too. To do that he needs to keep our economy competitive and growing and that includes expediting pipelines to move our resources, including oil, and manufactured goods and our services to world markets.
This is not about NORAD or NATO, nor about peacekeeping or burden sharing, it is about the Defence of Canada and the territory, maritime approaches and airspace we claim as our own. No one else will do that for us.