NATO Secretary General Visits Canadian Arctic

Visit comes amid escalated Chinese, Russian interest in the Arctic

NATO Secretary General Visits Canadian Arctic
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO Summit in Madrid on June 29, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Paul Chiasson)
Peter Wilson

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is visiting the Canadian Arctic this week as reports of Chinese and Russian interest in the area grow.

Stoltenberg's visit beginning on Aug. 25 ends an over 70-year long period of Canadian-government opposition to NATO involvement in the region—highlighted by the federal government vetoing a statement in 2009 that would've declared NATO as having a major role in Canada's Arctic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed Stoltenberg to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, on Aug. 25 to tour a military defense base and a research station before attending a briefing given by Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members. On Aug. 26, the pair will visit an air force base in the north of Alberta.

The visit comes amid increased ambitions by China and Russia in the Arctic.

'Strategic Value'

China's interest in Arctic resources has been growing steadily for over 40 years, said a former Canadian ambassador to China in May.

"When I was ambassador, China was very interested in developing military exchanges with us, and it was showing an interest in attending Canada’s military exercises in the north," said Guy Saint-Jacques, Canadian ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016, during testimony before the Senate national defence committee.

"I always cautioned National Defence about that, as the strategic value of such participation would give China a better knowledge of the extent of our activities in the north," he said.

Meanwhile, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Commander Wayne Eyre told the Senate national security committee in April that "there is no way" Canada can match Russia's military infrastructure in the Arctic.

"The Russians have permanently stationed troops in the North," Eyre said. "I’m not convinced that is a viable solution for us."

Testifying before the Senate national security committee in March, CAF Major-General Michael C. Wright said that China and Russia collaborate "in many areas" in the Arctic, but "that there are also areas of divergence" between the countries.
"It is an unequal partnership," Wright said. "Russia [is] very much the junior partner, and that will be increasingly so over the coming years."
The Canadian Press and Rahul Vaidyanath contributed to this report.