Canada, U.S. lost edge over Rus­sia in Arc­tic

Calgary Herald - - CANADA - LEE BERTHIAUME

OT­TAWA • The head of the North Amer­i­can Aero­space De­fence Com­mand un­der­scored the need to mod­ern­ize the ag­ing early-warn­ing sys­tem Thurs­day, while cau­tion­ing that the U.S. and Canada have lost their long-stand­ing mil­i­tary ad­van­tage in the Arc­tic to Rus­sia.

In writ­ten re­marks to the U.S. Se­nate com­mit­tee on armed ser­vices, U.S. Gen. Ter­rence O’shaugh­nessy said Rus­sia has been steadily ex­pand­ing its mil­i­tary pres­ence in the North by up­grad­ing its long-range bombers and de­vel­op­ing war­ships ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing cruise mis­siles.

Those weapons, as well as new land-based cruise mis­sile launch­ers in­side Rus­sian ter­ri­tory, pose a new and di­rect threat to North Amer­ica be­cause of their range and abil­ity to op­er­ate in the Arc­tic, the No­rad com­man­der said, rep­re­sent­ing a sig­nif­i­cant change from pre­vi­ous decades.

“The Arc­tic is no longer a fortress wall and our oceans are no longer pro­tec­tive moats, they are now av­enues of ap­proach for ad­vanced con­ven­tional weapons and the plat­forms that carry them,” O’shaugh­nessy said.

“Rus­sia has steadily ex­panded its mil­i­tary pres­ence in the re­gion and, by field­ing ad­vanced, long-range cruise mis­siles ... Rus­sia has left us with no choice but to im­prove our home­land de­fence ca­pa­bil­ity and ca­pac­ity.”

Nearly two weeks ago, a pair of Rus­sian bombers ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing nu­clear and cruise mis­siles buzzed Cana­dian airspace in the Arc­tic.

O’shaugh­nessy also high­lighted con­cerns with China’s in­creas­ing in­ter­est in the Arc­tic, which in­cludes what he de­scribed as “signs of a nascent but grow­ing strate­gic co-op­er­a­tion” with Rus­sia that in­cluded a com­bined bomber pa­trol last July.

O’shaugh­nessy’s warn­ings about Rus­sia and China — as well as on­go­ing con­cerns about North Korea and Iran ob­tain­ing bal­lis­tic mis­siles ca­pa­ble of strik­ing North Amer­ica — came as he made the case for up­grad­ing the No­rad sys­tem.

Cre­ated in the 1950s in re­sponse to the threat of a Soviet at­tack by bombers or bal­lis­tic mis­siles over the Arc­tic, No­rad is unique as a joint op­er­a­tion be­tween the U.S. and Canada. Its tech­nol­ogy was last up­graded in the 1980s, be­fore the end of the Cold War, though the U.S. did in­cor­po­rate the abil­ity to shoot down in­com­ing mis­siles in the mid-2000s. Canada fa­mously de­cided in 2005 against join­ing a bal­lis­tic-mis­sile de­fence.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s 2017 de­fence policy in­cluded plans to upgrade or mod­ern­ize No­rad but talks with the U.S. have been min­i­mal and no money has been set aside for what is ex­pected to be a multi­bil­lion-dollar project.

O’shaugh­nessy said some progress has been made in test­ing new tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing a long-range radar that de­fence of­fi­cials hope will be able to de­tect in­com­ing air­craft and cruise mis­siles in the Arc­tic long be­fore they reach North Amer­ica.

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