Canadian Navy participates in NATO exercise in the Arctic

The Canadian Navy participates in a NATO exercise in the Arctic

HMCS Harry DeWolf of the Royal Canadian Navy is participating in Operation Nanook which aims to strengthen cooperation among NATO allies in the Arctic. (Archives)

The Royal Canadian Navy on Tuesday began its Arctic deployment of Operation Nanook, which aims to strengthen collaboration among NATO allies and send the message to Russia that Canada and the Alliance are capable of deploying and protecting this region of the globe.

This type of exercise has been organized since 2007 by the Canadian Navy. This year, however, strained relations with Russia give Operation Nanook a significance it did not have 15 years ago. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last Sunday that he wanted to strengthen Moscow's position in the Arctic, both commercially and militarily.

The primary purpose [of Operation Nanook] is to see things and be seen. Let our backyard, Canada, be patrolled. We are able to ensure the sovereignty of our territory, summarizes the commanding officer of HMCS Harry DeWolf, Guillaume Côté, who is taking part in the exercise.

The warships have left Halifax for the six-week operation. The Canadian and American ships will head first for Newfoundland and Labrador, then will head for the Arctic, passing through Nuuk in Greenland.

The buildings of the Canadian Navy are accompanied by American, French, British and Danish vessels for this Arctic surveillance mission.

This is a region where NATO is seeking to intensify collaboration between allies to make the Russians understand that these countries are able to defend their interests there, says Adam Lajeunesse, professor at the University St. Francis Xavier and Arctic Security Analyst.

“The Russians are going to put more effort and expand their facilities in the region […] This will be a crucial element that will guide the policies of Canada and NATO in the coming years.

— Arctic Security Analyst Adam Lajeunesse

The Royal Canadian Navy and NATO want to send a clear message to Russia that 'they can't venture [into the Arctic] without any consequences,' explains Mr. Lajeunesse.

The navy has recently acquired new offshore vessels, such as HMCS Harry DeWolf, commanded by Captain Guillaume Côté. This will be his first outing at the helm of this ship.

This is the first time we've had a ship like this in many, many years. years, rejoices Captain Côté.

“It's brand new, we've had it for two years now.

— Commander Guillaume Côté, Commanding Officer of HMCS Harry DeWolf

Six ships of this type were ordered by the Navy from the Irving Shipyard in Halifax. So far, two have been delivered – including HMCS Harry DeWolf – and are participating in Operation Nanook.

Their hulls have been reinforced so they can move freely in the most of the Arctic territory. The structure of the buildings is thus more appropriate for venturing into regions that have been a little more ignored in recent years, notes Captain Côté.

HMCS Harry DeWolf stands ready to defend Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. (Archives)

After refueling in Nuuk, the warships that will participate in Operation Nanook will have fun discovering how to operate in the middle of the ice, underlines the captain Side.

“You also have to learn to work with allies, and that is a particular challenge in the Arctic.

— Commander Guillaume Côté, Commanding Officer of HMCS Harry DeWolf

Vladimir Putin considers NATO military infrastructure to be the main threat to Russia. In this context, strengthening collaboration between allies can be decisive, and this is one of the objectives of Operation Nanook.

In March, Canadian Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Wayne Eyre said it was not inconceivable that Canada's sovereignty could be challenged in the North.

The threat of a Russian incursion into the Canadian Arctic is very low at the moment, he said at the time, but, in his view, Canada's sovereignty could be challenged, as this region is vulnerable due to its small population and lack of infrastructure.

Tensions between Russia and NATO have been at their highest in recent months. Already in March, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) held training in the Arctic.

Moscow, for its part, submitted a request in April 2021 with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf of the United Nations.

If the UN gives its approval, Russia would move closer to Canada's exclusive economic zone, which is #x27;extends 200 nautical miles from its shores. Russian demand exceeds that of Canada and Denmark, unheard of, according to Robert Huebert of the University of Calgary.

Canada and its allies seek to assert their capabilities to intervene in this territory, but also to defend the Northwest Passage – which is also coveted by the United States.

With information from Valérie Gamache< /em>

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