A couple of weeks ago in Linkzookery, I noted that the USS Charlotte had surfaced at the North Pole through 61 inches of ice, a record thickness. Interesting, to be sure, but not all that exciting unless you were there, I guess.
But a reader sends me the heads up on this story:
A U.S. nuclear submarine cruised through the Arctic Ocean last month — probably passing through Canadian territorial waters — but the federal government is refusing to say whether it gave permission for the voyage.
However, experts say it is highly unlikely Canada was even notified of the USS Charlotte’s northern tour, which included a Nov. 10 stop at the North Pole, because it has no way of tracking what goes on beneath the Arctic ice.
And that could threaten Canada’s claim to hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of the North, including the Northwest Passage route across the Arctic, said Michael Byers, who holds the Canada research chair in global politics and international law at the University of British Columbia.
Now, the threat to Canada’s claim seems non-existent to Murdoc, but there’s this:
Prof. Byers said potentially lucrative oil and gas resources off the Queen Elizabeth Islands could slip out of Canadian control if foreign navies are operating in the Arctic without our permission. “The fact of the matter is that we’ve spent nothing on Arctic sovereignty over the past 20 years.”
Pierre Leblanc, a retired colonel and former commander of the Canadian Forces’ northern command, said foreign submarines have been travelling through the Canadian Arctic for decades, but the federal government usually finds out about it only by accident.
He said the nations controlling the submarines — the Americans, British and French — usually do not tell Canada when their vessels enter the Arctic. “We’re relying on their goodwill to know if they’re in our waters or not.”
The threat of America stealing someone else’s oil seems reasonable to many, so this will probably resonate with a lot of folks. Is it some sort of scare-mongering by a faction within the Canadian government?
Canada and the United States have disagreed for decades about the extent of Canada’s territorial waters in the Arctic.
Canada claims water 12 nautical miles out from the Queen Elizabeth Islands, and all the straits and inlets as its internal waters. The Americans say those are international waterways that are free for anyone to cross, including the Northwest Passage.
To their credit (at least as Murdoc sees it), the Canadians in the know are keeping their mouths shut:
Lieutenant-Commander John Coppard, a spokesman for the Canadian navy, would not say whether the U.S. sub strayed into Canadian territory, nor would he confirm whether the Americans sought our permission if so, or even notified Ottawa if the sub was to sail through the Canadian part of the Arctic.
“We do not discuss the movements of allied [nations’] submarines,” he said, adding: “One would expect that a naval vessel transiting Canadian waters would seek the appropriate diplomatic clearances.”
However, Rodney Moore, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs, said any notification would have come through military channels. “It probably wouldn’t come to us and we wouldn’t comment on it even if it did,” he said. “If anyone had it, it would be DND [the Department of National Defence].”
Bill Graham, the Defence Minister, did not return telephone calls seeking comment on the issue.
The article attempts to portray this as an attempt to avoid public calls for increased vigilance. But maybe it’s simply one ally not disclosing details about another’s military operations.
The article also points out that the Northwest Passage could likely be open to shipping within ten years due to global warming.
I’m not sure what to think of this. As a Warmongering AmericanTM I guess I’m inclined to say that it’s probably in Canada’s best interest that US subs have free access to the lanes and that we’re not going to steal their oil. But I can see how this could be a touchy subject. I don’t know enough about Canadian politics to really understand the how this could be used by various parties and factions. I’ve long wished for stronger ties and friendship with Canada, and I can imagine that opponents of such things could try to use this as a wedge to drive between our nations.