Mark Collins – The Bear and the North American Arctic: Not Really to Worry (for now)

Further to this 2015 post,

Arctic Tensions Not Really About the Region but Relations With Russia

No Need For Hoo-Hah Over the Bear and Arctic Waters

some sensible words from an American at War on the Rocks:

…[My] concerns are driven by the conception of the Arctic as a region of coming conflict and ominous comparisons between America’s depleted icebreaker fleet and Russia’s fleet, which boasts more than 40 vessels. It is widely contended that the United States suffers an “icebreaker gap” with regard to Russia that it must close to adequately defend its northern interests and win the “race for the Arctic.”

But there is no race to be won. Most Arctic territory and resources are solidly within the jurisdictions of Arctic states [see below for Canada], and disputed continental shelves are in the process of being amicably apportioned under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (Although not party to this treaty, the United States accepts the majority of it as customary international law “binding on nations that do not specifically decline to adhere to them”). Arctic states have been operating under this body of law for roughly 15 years. Contrary to what many in Washington might expect, Russia has been an active participant in this process from the beginning [see “Russia Submits Revised Arctic Seabed Claim to UN Body“]. Indeed, Russia has the most to gain from an adhered-to, rules-based Arctic international regime (or lose if this regime degrades). As such, it is unlikely that the spirit of cooperation that pervades northern relations will evaporate any time soon…

Very relevant:

Canada and Russia to hold joint Arctic conference next month [October]

Canada and Russia to hold a joint conference on the Arctic in Ottawa in November [Russian story]

Conference on Int’l Cooperation in Arctic to Be Held on October 12-13 [Arctic Council in Moscow]

Keep in mind that any Russian military action in recognized Canadian sovereign territory (and almost none of it is contested by anyone–see our government’s position under the Conservatives, despite the “use it or lose it bill of goods it so successfully sold) would risk a response by the US/NATO. Surely Bad Vlad is busy enough in places such as Ukraine, the Baltics and Syria not to take such a needless risk where no direct Russian interests are involved?

Plus from 2014:

What Should Concern Canada in the North and Arctic– Hint: Not sovereignty

The Canadian Coast Guard, like its US counterpart, has problems with aging icebreakers–see here and here.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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