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Dec 14

Further to this post and its further links,

Canadian/US Military Cooperation in Arctic: No Threats Hoo-Hah

some background on the thinking of that US general (note who’s in the photo–and the emphasis on cooperation with Canada):

America, Allies, & The Arctic: NORTHCOM Commander Talks Polar Strategy - EXCLUSIVE

In an exclusive interview in advance of Wednesday’s new US-Canadian agreement on Artic cooperation, Gen. Charles Jacoby – the Army four-star who leads both the US-Canadian NORAD and US Northern Command – spoke to AOL regular Robbin Laird about the national security aspects of US policy at the top of the world, where global climate change is creating new opportunities for trade, for energy exploration, and for conflict. What follows is Dr. Laird’s analysis and extensive excerpts from the interview.

…Russia in Asia and Russia in Europe become connected, upending the naval balance in the Pacific. With the Northern Sea Route, Moscow’s Pacific fleet can easily reinforce those in the Atlantic and vice versa, overcoming the two-front problem that has bedeviled Russian strategy as far back as its devastating defeat in the Tsushima Straits back in 1905. Russia will be able to shape a strategic reality at the top of the world and leverage that position for power projection southward.

Most ominiously, an increasingly assertive China has clearly marked the Arctic as a domain of strategic significance by their land grab for rare earth minerals in Greenland, their building of new icebreakers, and their focus on the strategic impact of the new transportation routes for commercial and military purposes. Much as the recent Chinese e-passports lay claim to resources in the South China Sea and India, their activities in the Arctic are clear indications of intent.

For Gen. Jacoby, the key to success is having a clear idea about the way ahead and investing in key capabilities. In addition, working closely with allies, above all the Canadians, is crucial to Arctic security that is both effective and cost-effective.

First, he said, we need to identify what we’re missing that is needed to meet the requirements for Arctic security and defense.

“Earlier this year, [U.S. Coast Guard Commandant] Admiral Papp and I identified four key capability gaps in the Arctic. Those are communications, domain awareness, infrastructure and presence,” Jacoby told me. “We need to focus our investments in enhancing capabilities in each of those areas over time.”..

“We simply cannot afford to have unnecessarily redundant facilities in the Arctic region. The different stakeholders need to work together to share in building these capabilities. We need an inclusive approach to this challenge, and in this case, an opportunity as well,” the general said. “We are using our exercise programs to explore those capabilities gaps and look for high-payoff investments that we can make. We are working with our components, especially the Navy and Air Force, to help build to those capabilities. And because we are taking an allied and whole-of-government approach, capabilities can be leveraged not just from the services, but from other agencies, from the commercial sector, or from allies like Canada.”..

Gen. Jacoby emphasized that we have time to prepare wisely, not time to dither foolishly. “Three or four NORAD commanders from now, the Secretary of Defense or the Canadian Minister of Defense is going to ask, who is coming back and forth through the Bering Straits, what are they doing in the Arctic, what are their capabilities, and does that represent a threat?” Jacoby asked. “We can wait and surge capabilities to respond and spend enormous amounts of money in a crisis, or we can try to shape the capabilities we need over time to be prepared to answer those questions.”

My interpretation: not much to bother about right now in terms of defence…but down the road…

Do keep in mind that the US military does tend to worry about worst cases; and that NORTHCOM is clearly making a pitch for greater resources to deal with the greater attention the commander is arguing the US needs to pay to the North. Still, in a time of very strained budgets plus much more high profile hot spots around the world, one wonders how successful the commander’s pitch will be. Americans do not share Canadians’ neurotic concern with the North that our government has been able so successfully to exploit.

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

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