NATO wants to keep the Arctic an area of low tensions, Stoltenberg
by Levon Sevunts (feat. Rob Huebert)
April 4, 2018
Despite rising tensions with Russia in Eastern Europe, the Baltics and more recently in the United Kingdom, NATO would like to keep the Arctic an area of low tensions, the chief of the North Atlantic Alliance said Wednesday.
“We used to say that in the High North we have low tensions,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “And I think we should continue to strive for avoiding an arms race and higher tensions in the High North.”
At the same time the alliance needs to respond to the increased Russian military presence in the North Atlantic and the Arctic regions with more of its own naval forces, said Stoltenberg who was in Ottawa for a two-day visit.
“Therefore part of the adaptation of NATO is that we are also increasing our naval capabilities, including the High North,” Stoltenberg said.
Trudeau said the question of the Arctic was thoroughly discussed during his meeting with Stoltenberg.
“We had a very positive discussion on further engagement by NATO in the North,” said Trudeau.
Given the impacts of climate change and greater navigability in the Arctic waters, Canada and NATO have to continue to collaborate and coordinate their actions in the North, Trudeau said.
“I very much look forward to working with NATO as Canada has always been a strong NATO ally and will continue to be particularly in the areas where there is a natural fit like protecting our Arctic Oceans,” Trudeau said.
“I know that there is a new model and a new approach coming down the pipeline and we’ll be part of that,” Trudeau added responding to a question in French.
Reviving Atlantic Command
Rob Huebert, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary and a senior research fellow with the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, said Trudeau’s cryptic comments about the new model or approach left him wondering whether NATO plans to resuscitate a Norwegian proposal for the alliance to focus more on the Arctic.
Norway wanted to have greater shared intelligence focused on Russian activities in the Arctic and was pushing for a separate NATO Arctic Command, Huebert said.
However, Stoltenberg pointed out that the alliance is talking about recreating its Atlantic Command with a specific focus on the North Atlantic.
The idea of recreating the command harkens back to the days of the Cold War, Huebert said.
“It was stood down, as the Cold War progressed and particularly as the Russian navy disintegrated into nothingness, there wasn’t any need to protect the sea lines of communications,” Huebert said. “What they are doing, they are just reinvigorating what existed during the Cold War.”
‘Firm, strong, predictable’