Russia a strategic challenge for NATO in arctic, Stoltenberg says

OTTAWA, Aug 26 (Reuters) – Russia’s capabilities in the north pose a strategic challenge to NATO, its Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Canada’s recently announced investment in North American defense systems after his first visit to the Canadian Arctic on Friday.

“The High North is of increasing importance to NATO and Canada as we see a significant Russian military build-up,” Stoltenberg said, standing alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Cold Lake, Alberta.

Russia has reopened hundreds of Soviet-era military sites in the Arctic, using the region to test new weapons systems, Stoltenberg said. He also warned that Russia and China are building a strategic Arctic partnership that challenges NATO’s values ​​and interests.

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As a NATO member, Canada has been criticized for spending too little on its military capabilities. But after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Canada said in June it would invest C$4.9 billion ($3.8 billion) over the next six years to modernize NORAD, the joint US-Canadian North American defense agency.

“The geopolitical landscape has changed over the past few months, so it’s timely for us to share with the Secretary General and NATO all that Canada is doing through NORAD, recognizing that Russia is a growing concern for all of us.” Trudeau said.

Trudeau and Stoltenberg visited Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, on Thursday, a town above the Arctic Circle that is home to an air defense radar outpost. It’s part of NORAD’s North Warning System, which experts say is in dire need of an upgrade.

The more than six-decade-old system detects security threats in North America, and its early warning radar for the polar region dates back to the late 1980s.

Both Trudeau and Stoltenberg acknowledged that climate change is making the Arctic more accessible to economic and military activity, raising security concerns.

Cambridge Bay is one of the main stops for ships passing through the Northwest Passage of the Arctic Ocean between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The United States has challenged Canada’s sovereignty over what it says is an international waterway for decades.

Asked about the sovereignty issue Friday, Trudeau said: “The Northwest Passage is Canadian waters. Period.”

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Reporting by Ismail Shakeel and Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Josie Kao

Our Standards: Principles of Thomson Reuters Trust.

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