For several years now, Western countries have been discussing, both at home and internationally, whether and how the security situation in the Arctic has changed. In the process, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was added to the heightened Chinese interests, which further exacerbated the situation. Already, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the UK and the US have announced plans to increase their focus (and budgets) on defense forces in the far north in the coming years. Now Canada has also announced plans to modernize its defense readiness and forces, especially in the Arctic.
Investments of about 4.9 billion Canadian dollars (about 2.2 billion euros) over the next six years are intended to adapt Canadian continental defense capabilities to new threat situations. Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand made the announcement at a press conference attended by representatives of the Canadian Forces. Not only the armed forces are to benefit from the windfall, but also NORAD, the North American Air Defense Alliance with the United States. “As autocratic regimes threaten the rules-based international order, climate change impacts on security and defense increase, and our competitors develop new technologies such as hypersonic weapons and advanced cruise missiles, there is an urgent need to modernize the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which has protected Canadians and Americans for more than 60 years,” the press release states.
According to the government and the military, the planned investments will cover five points. These include improved surveillance and early warning systems, more advanced communications technologies, modern air defense missile systems, strengthened and improved infrastructure in the Far North, and increased investment in research and development of new military technologies. The goal should be to protect its own population as well as North America and NATO’s Western flank from autocratic regimes in the coming years, the Defense Ministry writes. Strengthening NORAD in particular is a key priority and is linked to a strategy developed jointly with the U.S. to address future threats, especially from the Arctic direction.
For the northern territories, which are home to an important part of the early warning systems, the announcements are very welcome. After all, this is precisely where the Canadian government intends to make a substantial part of its investments. According to Defense Minister Anand, several projects in the north are intended to provide greater security. For example, new over-the-horizon radar systems will replace existing systems and a network of new sensors will detect threats early throughout the Canadian Arctic. In addition, Canada is relying on satellites for future threat tracking along the North American northern border. Furthermore, four military bases are to be upgraded in the coming years. All of these are seen as welcome business opportunities by regional governments, in addition to the security aspect. Territorial leaders had discussed the latter with Prime Minister Trudeau in April, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and prioritized strengthening Canada’s north.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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