Russia intends to resume fighter patrols over the North Pole for the first time in 30 years, according to recent reports from Russian media.
Despite this, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Diana Khaddaj says Canada does not view the situation as particularly alarming.
“While there is no immediate military threat in Canada’s Arctic, DND/CAF continues to carefully monitor the changing Arctic security environment and is focused on exercising surveillance and control in the region,” stated Khaddaj.
Russia is not required to notify Canada when it conducts patrols so long as its aircraft do not enter Canadian airspace or affect normal civil aviation operations in areas managed by Canadian air navigation service providers, stated Khaddaj.
Arctic airspace in North America is monitored, in partnership with the U.S., by NORAD.
While Russia’s North Pole patrols have tapered off since the end of the Cold War, its airplanes still routinely enter Canadian and American areas and are intercepted by NORAD.
Two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers were observed entering the Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone by NORAD on Jan. 26.
Canada’s Northern defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged” outlines several projects intended to boost the country’s Arctic capabilities, including new monitoring technologies, drones, enhanced Canadian Rangers training, a new class of ground vehicles and three new icebreakers – one of which was finished last fall, with the other two scheduled to join the fleet this year and in 2020.
While tensions between Canada and Russia have been rising over Russian military intervention in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, diplomacy in the Arctic sometimes operates on a different wavelength, stated Khaddaj.
“The Arctic is a complex and challenging environment given its harsh climate, large area, sparse population, limited physical and digital infrastructure and high operating costs. That said, the Arctic is viewed primarily as a region of co-operation,” she stated.
In the Arctic Council, Canada co-operates with other member countries, including Russia, to gather science and develop policies on sustainable development and environmental issues.