In a sign of deepening co-operation between Canada and Britain on defence matters, the UK is dispatching Nick Diggle, a former Royal Navy officer and research specialist in Arctic security, to Ottawa in September.
The former counterterrorism expert’s move follows a warning from Canada’s defence chief that protecting the Arctic region is a key concern for the Armed Forces.
At a conference in Ottawa in March, Gen. Wayne Eyre said Russia had reoccupied abandoned Cold War bases in its Far North.
The threat of a Russian incursion into Canada’s Arctic is very low at the moment, he said, but it is “not inconceivable that our sovereignty may be challenged” in the future from the North.
Eyre also highlighted Russia’s “remilitarization” of the North, which is potentially vulnerable because of its sparse population and lack of infrastructure.
Diggle, a former warfare officer with the Royal Navy, has been researching how the UK and Canada can work together “to combat the geostrategic threat from Russia and China in the Arctic” at the Changing Character of War Centre based at Oxford University in England.
The centre, which studies armed conflict, said Diggle will take up the post of minister-counsellor at the High Commission in Ottawa.
In an October interview with the Sunday Times, a British newspaper, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said London is planning to strike new security deals with democratic countries to fight the influence of China and Russia.
Gen. Sir Jim Hockenhull, chief of defence intelligence in the UK, signalled last year that Britain is planning to send more intelligence personnel overseas during a rare public appearance at the Defence and Security Equipment International trade exhibition in London.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence told The Canadian Press that Britain is increasing the number of defence intelligence personnel who operate overseas to help the country “build relationships with key international partners.”
Diggle, who did not respond to a request for comment, was commissioned into the Royal Navy as a warfare officer in 1988.
He served in the navy for over 12 years, later joining the UK’s Foreign Ministry, where he served in a range of roles and overseas postings including in Oman and Mexico. He also recently worked on global counterterrorism issues in London.
A spokesperson for the British High Commission in Ottawa said developments in the Arctic affect the environment, prosperity, energy supply and security.
A 2021 review set out the UK’s approach of helping to maintain the region as one of high co-operation and low tension, contributing to Arctic science—particularly on the impacts of climate change—and working with partners such as Canada, she added.
By Marie Woolf