Mil­i­tary ex­er­cise in Arc­tic grows to in­clude al­lies for unity mes­sage

Times Colonist - - Canada / World -

OT­TAWA — Canada and some of its clos­est al­lies have kicked off a three-week naval ex­er­cise in the Arc­tic that aims to send a mes­sage of unity against po­ten­tial ad­ver­saries in the North with­out spread­ing COVID-19 to local com­mu­ni­ties.

The train­ing ex­er­cise known as Op­er­a­tion Nanook has been a main­stay for the Cana­dian Armed Forces since 2007, but this is the first year that the U.S., France and Den­mark will all be par­tic­i­pat­ing as well.

Cana­dian and U.S. naval of­fi­cers told re­porters dur­ing a brief­ing Tues­day that the in­volve­ment of those other na­tions re­flected the im­por­tance of co-op­er­a­tion among al­lies when it comes to mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant part of the world.

Western coun­tries as well as po­ten­tial ad­ver­saries such as Rus­sia and China have been steadily ex­pand­ing their mil­i­tary foot­prints and ac­tiv­i­ties in the re­gion as cli­mate change makes it eas­ier to reach and op­er­ate in, rais­ing con­cerns about the threat of a con­flict.

“The mes­sage is the Arc­tic is strate­gi­cally im­por­tant, it’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant and it’s im­por­tant for our col­lec­tive na­tional se­cu­rity,” said Vice-Ad­mi­ral Steven Poulin, com­man­der of the U.S. Coast Guard’s At­lantic area.

Yet this year’s it­er­a­tion of Op­er­a­tion Nanook is also smaller than past ver­sions, which have in­cluded per­son­nel and equip­ment from across the Cana­dian mil­i­tary, par­tic­u­larly the Cana­dian Rangers, as well as other fed­eral de­part­ments.

Rear Ad­mi­ral Brian San­tarpia, com­man­der of the Royal Cana­dian Navy’s Mar­itime Forces At­lantic, said this year’s ex­er­cise will not in­clude any land-based forces and fo­cus al­most ex­clu­sively on naval op­er­a­tions be­cause of con­cerns about spread­ing COVID-19.

The Cana­dian and al­lied war­ships will fo­cus most of their ac­tiv­i­ties in the Davis Strait be­tween Baf­fin Is­land and Green­land.

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