News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Friday, September 05, 2008

Arctic Sovereignty: Why Russian Imperialism towards Georgia should worry Canada

The conflict in Georgia, which has resulted in Russian-supported de-facto independent republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia gaining effective independence from Georgia, is not just some far away local conflict which we should ignore. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it has been the catalyst for Stephen Harper's recent pronouncements on Arctic sovereignty and the North West Passage.

Russia has already planted a flag on the seabed at the North Pole, and has used its gas supplies as a foreign policy tool against former eastern bloc countries which Putin perceives to be too close to the West, such as Ukraine. The EU is looking increasingly scared of Russia, which now holds all the cards in the energy game, with western European oil and gas supplies nearing exhaustion and Russia able to control much of the supply of energy through its own vast resources and control over pipelines from neighbouring states.

Thus far, Canada's energy independence has been sufficient to ensure that Russian influence is not a problem in North America. However, as the waters between Canada and Russian become increasingly navigable, and the northern lands become increasingly valuable economic resources, we can be sure that Russian will be glancing our way soon. Once they have subdued Europe, Canada and the United States could be the only front in a future Cold War with the Russians. After years of sleeping with the Elephant, sleeping with the Great Bear could become rather less comfortable.

Thankfully, the Harper Government is already taking action to head off a future threat. Canadian claims on Arctic territory are being placed, and steps have been taken in recent weeks to develop the northern economy, and increase Canada's military presence along its Arctic frontier. Today, these moves may seem pretty insignificant, but I firmly believe that they are amongst the most important decisions taken by a Canadian government since the Second World War, and may avert a Third.

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