Canada to inquire about Russian military activities in Arctic

The head of the Political Section of the Russian Embassy in Ottawa has been summoned to appear before the House of Commons Defense Committee on Monday. Canadian Members of Parliament will ask Dmitry Trofimov to shed light on Russia’s military policies in the air and sea near the border of Canada’s claimed Arctic territory.

Last month, NORAD scrambled two Canadian jets to intercept two Russian bombers right outside Canadian airspace. The incident led to a diplomatic spat between the two countries, with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper declaring, “We will respond every time the Russians make any kind of intrusion on the sovereignty of Canada.” In response, the Kremlin denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that they had notified Ottawa in advance of the exercises. Regardless of the legality, Russian flights over the Arctic are not unusual, but this was one of the few times where such a military exercise actually led to a conflict.

Russian TU-160
Russian TU-160

While MPs will inquire specifically about the Tu-160 incident, they will also ask about Russia’s naval policy in the Arctic waters near Canada. Last year, a group of hunters informed the Canadian Rangers that they had spotted a submarine north of Baffin Island. Canadian Rangers, who work in the remote northern reaches of Canada, are in charge of “protecting Canada’s sovereignty by reporting unusual activities or sightings.”

Complicating the situation even further, two weeks earlier, a mysterious explosion shook the area where the submarine was reported, an incident which still has not been fully explained. The explosion and possible submarine sighting were papered over by the Canadian government, in stark contrast to the brouhaha made over the Russian fighter jet exercise in February. Yet perhaps the parliamentary inquiry on Monday will clarify this series of events, which have demonstrated the increasing difficulties facing Canada as it tries to maintain territorial sovereignty in the Arctic.

Full story: Globe & Mail (Canada)

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