Thursday, December 22, 2005

Calling the Liberal bluff

Babble on.

Today, in a letter to Defence Minister Graham, retired Brigadier General and Conservative Defence Critic Gordon O'Connor called the Liberal bluff on arctic sovereignty:

In a press conference on Monday, I called on your government to answer several questions concerning this potential violation of our sovereignty. I have yet to receive a response from you or any government official. So today I am writing to put these questions directly to you:

  • Was the Government of Canada aware of this particular voyage into Canadian territorial waters?

  • If your government was aware of this voyage, did it grant permission for it to occur?

  • If your government did not grant such permission, what specific actions have you or your government taken to protest this apparent violation of Canadian sovereignty?

  • Is the government aware of other unauthorized foreign naval voyages that may have occurred in Canadian territorial waters without the permission or knowledge of the Canadian government?

  • What concrete measures are in your government’s plan to prevent such unauthorized incursions into Canadian territorial waters in the future?

Sovereignty must be enforced to be credible with respect to international law. It is not good enough to say we are sovereign, we must demonstrate our sovereignty. I and all Canadians would like to know the specifics of your plan to defend our northern sovereignty.

Well done, sir. Better for the Conservatives to call the Liberal bluff on Canadian arctic sovereignty than to continue to have the Americans, Russians, Chinese, British and French do it (the five countries widely presumed to operate submarines in our arctic waters as they please).

I especially like Mr. O'Connor's last sentence. He knows full well that the Liberals have no specific plan to defend our arctic sovereignty.

But the Conservatives do:

“The single most important duty of the federal government is to protect and defend our national sovereignty,” said Mr. Harper. “You need forces on the ground, ships in the sea, and proper surveillance.”

The announcement is part of the “Canada First” defence strategy and the plan to significantly enhance our military presence in the Artic includes:

  • Stationing three new armed naval heavy ice breakers in the area of Iqaluit which will include 500 regular force personnel for crews and support;

  • Building a new military/civilian deep-water docking facility in the Iqaluit area;

  • Establishing a new Arctic National Sensor System for northern waters which will include underwater surveillance technologies;

  • Building a new Arctic army training centre in the area of Cambridge Bay on the Northwest Passage staffed by an estimated 100 regular force personnel;

  • Stationing new fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft in Yellowknife;

  • Providing eastern and western Arctic air surveillance through stationing new long range uninhabited aerial vehicle (UAV) squadrons at CFB Goose Bay and CFB Comox;

  • Revitalizing the Canadian Rangers by recruiting up to 500 additional Rangers increasing their level of training, activity, and equipment; and

  • Providing an army emergency response capability through the new airborne battalion and airlift capacity stationed at CFB Trenton to provide a rapid emergency response capability throughout the entire Arctic region.

Every single one of those steps makes sense. Every one.

The only thing they didn't do was station a significant regular army unit in the north, but by giving the coverage mandate to the new Airborne, beefing up the Rangers, and establishing an army training centre for arctic ops, at least they're trying to cover that need off.

It's long past time that Canada had a coherent strategy to deal with the sovereignty issues posed by a land mass the size of Europe but with one of the most inhospitable climates this side of the moon. If it's to remain the Canadian North, then Canadians need to control what goes on up there.

The Liberals posture. The Conservatives have a workable plan. The choice couldn't be clearer.

Babble off.


At 4:40 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

If they get elected and if they keep this promise, even I will be impressed. I will be even more impressed if they lose some of their other promises. :)

At 8:02 p.m., Blogger Ottawa Core said...

our presence in the north could lead to populating the country outside the 49th parallel! this could lead to facing the challenge of inhabiting a harsh wasteland. or so we have been led to believe. Canadian eh? Finally.

At 2:23 a.m., Blogger lance said...

Don't discount the economic side to this.

The north is the single largest unexplored (read: mineral/fossil fuels) inhabited area of the globe. Siberia has more people, and the antarctic isn't inhabited.

As recent developments have attested, the arctic is literally a diamond in the rough. Pardon the pun.

It's there for the taking, but the taking involves holding.


At 4:15 p.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

How exactly is stationing some UAVs and lightly-armed icebreakers going to stop other subs from sneaking through Arctic waters?

Even if we build a grand Arctic SOSUS net, armed icebreakers (top speed clear water, 22kts; ice pack, 2.5kts) are not going to have an easy time interdicting subs *under* the ice pack (top speed, 32+ kts).

Then there's the matter of building a sonar database with the acoustic signatures of all the various people we want kept out of the neighbourhood. Most of that we can borrow from NATO and the existing SOSUS nets, but some targets will have to be ID'ed by our own subs recording and tailing. But oh yeah, our subs can't do long-duration icepack patrols.

The only thing that can interdict and harass opposition subs under the ice pack is subs of our own. Subs that aren't diesel (or are, but have viable re-breathers).

I like the CPC plan better than nothing at all, but it's pretty damn close to nothing in terms of actual effectiveness.

At 6:56 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Chris, you're unusually full of crap on this.

Even if we had subs able to follow move for move under the ice, what then? All we can do is harrass.

Well, if we know they're there, we can protest to the U.S. with times, dates, and positions. And that's FAR better than nothing.

Besides, who says this is just about submarines? It's about asserting a presence, and all the other steps make sense.

You want to be cranky that it's not enough, great. But if you don't give some credit where it's due, I'm gonna eat your lunch.

At 10:48 p.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

Damian, that is precisely the point. Our ROE under the icepack won't permit wanton kill shots under the ice, but having the capability and will to do so is what constitutes sovereignty.

No one is suggesting that there are camps of arctic troops marching around the NWT at will. But there *are* subs violating our national boundaries at will.

Making those subs aware that yes, we can monitor them, and yes, we can take them out at the time and place of our choosing, is what constitutes effective deterrence.

Knowing the timing of their coming and going is absolutely ineffectual and is a mere step above what we do now. With an Arctic SOSUS we'll be able to complain in a more timely fashion, and to the appropriate government, but we're still unable to do anything about it.

Shadowing and yes, harassment of foreign subs can be an effective tactic and that very policy was pursued throughout the Cold War.

This CPC initiative is being sold as a salve for Arctic sovereignty in the wake of a US sub intrusion. All I'm saying is that it's not going to affect the sub situation one iota. And it shouldn't be sold to the Canadian public as such. It's just a half-measure. A good one, but not nearly enough.

At 12:32 a.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

So incremental progress isn't worth a damn, Chris?

At 3:29 a.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

I'm cynical about whether the progress will continue. Canadian governments (Liberal and Conservative) have a habit of hanging their servicemen and women out to dry -- until it's critical.

Look, I would be very happy indeed if they put together everything they've promised. I just doubt whether they will follow through on the rest -- the as-yet unspoken requirements and costs of true sovereignty. That's a discussion the country has not had for a great many years.

At 12:24 a.m., Blogger Pat Patterson said...

At least in the US, the risk of public identification would most certainly provide a reason to not sail in these waters. I believe that both Norway and Sweden had for years complained about incursions by the US and USSR and was only able to mitigate those acts through factual data concerning the location and the time. Neither of these Scandanavian countries had the ability to confront militarily the US or USSR and not being able to threaten probably kept these incursions at the diplomatic level.


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