The Harper government’s dire warnings of a Russian threat in the Arctic — at one time a regular feature of its campaign to sell Canadians on the “need” to buy the F-35 — do not reflect its own behind-closed-doors assessment of the situation, a July 2011 briefing note by Department of National Defence analysts makes clear.
A partly censored version of the briefing note was released to La Presse following an Access to Information Request (Joël-Denis Bellavance, “Souveraineté du Canada en Arctique: «La Russie n’est pas une menace»,” La Presse, 26 May 2012).
In the briefing, the DND analysts note that Moscow has a strong interest in the economic potential of the Arctic. But they also point out that Russia has been using normal diplomatic dispute resolution procedures to resolve questions of sovereignty and resource rights in the region:
Indeed, the recent conclusion of an agreement between Russia and Norway to delineate their maritime boundary in the Arctic is illustrative of Russia’s long-held public stance on international law and demonstrates a willingness by Moscow to act in a cooperative manner on Arctic issues.
The briefing note comments that Canada should continue to follow Russian activities and intentions in the Arctic, but adds that “there has yet to be any serious cause for alarm.”
In fact, the document’s final comments are unarguably optimistic:
From a Defence perspective, in spite of disagreements over Russian LRA [Long Range Aviation] flights, there is mutual interest with regard to cooperation in SAR [Search and Rescue] and Arctic domain awareness. Defence is continuing to explore the potential for further cooperation with Russia in these fields.
U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2011 also documented that the Harper government’s sometimes ridiculous public rhetoric about the Russian threat did not reflect its actual views.
Photo credit: DND