Uphold the Right of Arctic Peoples to Establish Fraternal Relations Favourable to Themselves and World Peace!

Enver Villamizar –

The tour of a NORAD early warning site in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut and Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake in Alberta by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, August 25-26, is a matter of serious concern for Canadians. The tour was used as an opportunity to promote $42 billion of public funds the federal government is spending to strengthen U.S. control over Canadian territory and further integrate the Canadian armed forces into those of the U.S. in the name of strengthening NORAD and even European security.[1]

NORAD, which stands for North American Aerospace Defense Command, is always headed by a U.S. general and comes under U.S. Northern Command. This means the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, the president of the United States, decides what becomes of Canadian territory and armed forces.

To hide this arrangement, Prime Minister Trudeau repeated the disinformation that NORAD is about the "joint" defence of North America, and under "bi-national command." The argument given by Stoltenberg and Trudeau for investments in NORAD and a greater NATO presence in the Arctic was that investments to militarize the Arctic through NORAD will benefit the military alliance and its "1 billion citizens."

Stoltenberg's visit was used to whip up hysteria that Russia and China are threats to Canada and, therefore, Canada should further entrench NATO and NORAD in the Arctic. With the likely accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, seven of the eight Arctic nations will be NATO members, Russia excluded, and thus NATO, by extension, should be able to further militarize the Arctic in the name of protecting its "1 billion citizens."

Ironically, claims by Stoltenberg that the shortest path for a Russian rocket to the U.S. is over the Arctic, present Canada as a threat to the security of the U.S. He also said China's plans for a "Polar Silk Road," a trade route linking it to Europe via the Arctic, as well as its plans to build the world's biggest icebreaker and its investments in energy infrastructure in the Arctic are a threat "that challenges our values and interests."[2]

In other words, even China's international trade that involves travel through Arctic waters is a threat which must be countered with militarization. This begs the question as to whether China's mere existence is now to be considered a threat to NATO and its members. How many of the 1 billion citizens NATO claims to represent could accept this irrational argument, not to mention the almost 1.5 billion citizens of China? The fact is that the Canadian people and the Indigenous peoples of the north have always opposed NATO and the U.S. striving to expand their presence and control over the Arctic.

For his part, Trudeau joined the hysteria, repeatedly referring to the Arctic, not as a land occupied by the Inuit since time immemorial, but as the "northern and western approaches to Europe." In other words, Arctic militarization is linked with European militarization.

NATO's presence was also justified in the name of responding to climate change, which it calls a "threat multiplier" and considers it first and foremost a security and military threat, rather than a threat to the peoples of the world and their well-being. The visit was used to suggest NATO's expansion into the Arctic is related to science and even protecting the environment, with the promotion of the new "Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence" Canada hosts in the Canadian Arctic. All told, every irrational and spurious reason was floated to try and justify something which cannot be justified: militarizing the already fragile Arctic in the name of peace and security.

Youth in Iqaluit, Nunavut defend their future and their right to a say in what takes place on their territories in a climate march, June 5, 2019.

The fact is that the Arctic belongs to the Inuit and other Indigenous peoples who live on the Arctic territory of several nation-states, whose right it is to decide what happens there. This and their opposition to the militarization of the Arctic under U.S. command for the "benefits" it will allegedly bring them is always kept hidden. Trudeau revealed a guilty conscience when he stated: "We can never forget that sovereignty doesn't come through soldiers or scientists, it comes through the people who have lived here for millennia. Everything we do here has to not just be in support of them but drawing support from them for everything we do."

Who is he trying to fool? Perhaps he thinks his appointment of an Inuit woman and former president of the Arctic Circumpolar Conference as Governor General and, in that capacity, the nominal Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces (a position which really falls to the President of the United States as a consequence of Canada's membership in NORAD and NATO) will convince the Inuit that their concerns of yesterday have been taken care of and no longer apply today?

In 1989, when she was president of the Arctic Circumpolar Conference, current Governor General Mary Simon advocated for an Arctic zone of peace. "Any excessive military build-up in the North, whether by the [then] Soviet Union or the United States, only serves to divide the Arctic, perpetuate East-West tensions and the arms race, and put our people on opposing sides," she wrote at the time.[3] Clearly, the demand to compromise one's conscience has become the vogue in the imperialist world of the 21st century.

Militarizing the Arctic and placing it under U.S. control neither supports the people of the North nor has their support. This is precisely why it is all presented as a response to the security dangers allegedly posed by Russia and China, rather than a demand of the U.S. militarists and the biggest oligopolies to control the land, resources and trade routes they covet in their striving to control the world.

Instead of militarizing the Arctic, which only increases tensions, Canada should demand its demilitarization permitting the peoples who live in the Arctic to establish friendly relations and sustainable communities throughout their territories.


1. Specific investments include:

- new radar stations, command and control upgrades, additional air-to-air refueling aircraft, advanced air-to-air missiles for fighter jets, upgrades to Canadian Armed Forces' infrastructure in the North, and additional funding to complete and augment key space projects.

Specific allocations include:

- $6.38 billion for air-to-air missiles.

- $6.96 billion for:

- an Arctic Over-the-Horizon Radar system for "tracking from the Canada-United States border to the Arctic circle;"
- a Polar Over-the-Horizon Radar system for radar coverage "over and beyond the northernmost approaches to North America;"
- a network of sensors with classified capabilities, distributed across Northern Canada which the U.S. will be able to use; and
- completing and augmenting the new state-of-the-art space-based surveillance project announced in Canada's 2017 defence policy.

- $4.13 billion to:

- modernize Canadian Armed Forces' command, control and communications capabilities and systems;
- modernize the Canadian Combined Air Operations Centre;
- renew the Canadian Armed Forces' high- and low-frequency radio capability;
- enhance satellite communications in the Arctic through additional funding to complete and augment the polar communications project announced in Canada's defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged;
- procure and install new digital radios and network equipment;
- work with the United States to expand support for the NORAD Pathfinder initiative, to take advantage of cloud-based computing and machine learning.

- $15.68 billion to:

- acquire additional air-to-air refueling aircraft;
- upgrade Canadian Armed Forces' infrastructure at four locations in Canada's North;
- upgrade fighter infrastructure and NORAD Quick Reaction Alert capabilities at bases across Canada;
- modernize the Canadian Armed Forces' air operational training infrastructure.

(Fact sheet: Funding for Continental Defence and NORAD Modernization.)

2. "In the face of Russian aggression, NATO is beefing up Arctic security," Globe and Mail, August 24, 2022.

3. "The Inuit and the Struggle for an Arctic Zone of Peace," TML Weekly, April 6, 2019.

(Photos: E. Tranter, TML)

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 9 - September, 2022

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