Canada and Russia: Stereotypes Inverted

April 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

Growing up in Canada in the 1980s, the Cold War was kind of an abstract concept.  Sure, we had the occasional drill to learn what to do in case of nuclear attack, but the larger context of the Cold War was missing.  Except when it came to hockey.  That was the Cold War here.  It began in 1972, Canada and the Soviets played an 8-game Summit Series of hockey, 4 games in Canada, then 4 games in Russia.  Canadians thought it would be a cakewalk.  After Game 4 in Vancouver, Canada was booed off the ice after losing 5-3.  Heading to the USSR, Canada was trailing 2 games to 1 in the series (the 4th game had been a tie).  Team Canada’s Phil Esposito reacted to the booing in Vancouver in a post-game interview:

Canada came back to win the series, scoring at the last minute in Moscow.  Legends were built around this series, and, in part, around Esposito’s rant.  As Canada and the Soviet Union met up in international play throughout the 70s and 80s, a stereotype emerged of both nations, based on their hockey players.  Canada, we were the good guys, the passionate hockey players, who’d do anything to win.  The Soviets, they were the heartless commies, mechanistic and humourless.  The international series went back and forth.  Even club teams got into it.  Apparently the greatest hockey game of all-time was played on New Year’s Eve, 1975, at the Montréal Forum, as the Montréal Canadiens played Central Red Army to a 3-3 draw.

So, given these stereotypes, I had to laugh this afternoon reading the local Montréal English-language newspaper, The Gazette.  Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, is in the Arctic this week, having just touched down in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, to inspect the activities of Canadians working on proving Canada’s claims to the Arctic Archipelago before the 2013 deadline.  Cannon was impressed with their work, but not so impressed with the actions of the Russians.

The Russians are planning a few maneouvres in the Arctic, including dropping two paratroopers onto the North Pole to belatedly commemorate the 60th anniversary of a similar exercise in 1949.  Said Cannon:

It was interesting . . . to see our Canadians working extremely hard to collect the data, to be able to make sure that we do submit to the commission by 2013 the extended mapping and our scientific data.  On the other hand, we have the Russians playing games as to who can plant a flag or who can send paratroopers there. I thought the contrast was striking. We take our job seriously, and it seemed to me that the Russians were just pulling stunts.

[Cross-posted at Current Intelligence].

Climate of Conflict in the Arctic

March 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago, I was emailed interviewed by the ISN Security Watch for an article on the Arctic and the growing interest being shown in it by the Arctic nations and their neighbours, which is back in the news today.  Read the ISN article here.

The Arctic: The Final Frontier

February 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

This weekend, the G7’s finance ministers are gathering in Iqaluit, in the Canadian Eastern Arctic, to discuss the fallout from last year’s global economic meltdown, as well as how best to prevent the same from happening again.  The meeting comes amidst questions about the on-going relevancy fo the G7 in the face of the creation of the G20 to handle the global economy.

That the meeting is being held in the Arctic is both interesting and significant, as Canada is currently attempting to bolster its claim to various lands and waters in the Arctic, as are the US, Russia, Norway, and Denmark.  That the G7 is meeting in the Canadian Arctic is surely no coincidence.

Canada is also caught up in a sort of new Cold War with Russia, its neighbour across the North Pole, in the Arctic.  Russia has just announced it is going to spend another $50 million USD on hydrographic and geophysics research along the Arctic Ocean bed.  This comes as Canada, Russia, and the other Arctic nations face a UN-mandated deadline to register their claims to the Arctic according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Norway did so over a year ago, whilst the other 3 Arctic nations.  The 5 Arctic nations face staggered deadlines, Norway’s was last year, Russia’s this year, Canada’s in 2013.  Denmark has a claim to the Arctic through its possession of Greenland.

Under UNCLOS, panels of scientists will assess the validity of uncontested claims in the Arctic, but the 5 nations themselves will sort out their own disagreements when it comes to disputed claims.

For example, Canada’s mapping effort is focussed on proving that 2 massive under-water mountain chains, the Alpha and Lomonosov, are geologically connected to North America.  If this is indeed the case, not only will Canada benefit, but so, too, would Denmark and the US.  Hence, whilst Canada is carrying out the majority of the mapping work, it periodically co-operates with the Danes and Americans.  Meanwhile, both Canada and the US will come to loggerheads over the Beaufort Sea and its oil & gas reserves, whilst Canada, Denmark, and Russia are expected to have competing claims to the territory around the North Pole.  And then there is the battle over the Northwest Passage.  Canada hopes to prove the waters within the Arctic Archipelago belong to it, meaning the Passage would be Canadian.  This would limit access to the Passage as a shipping chanel as global warming causes the ice in the passage to melt.

Cross-posted at Current Intelligence.

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