On August 26th, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to 4 Wing Cold Lake, a military base in northern Alberta. During the short press conference, Trudeau made reference to “the western, and northern approaches to NATO” that were protected by “Canada’s strength” and the leadership role of Canada in the “Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group on NATO’s eastern flank, in Latvia.”
Where exactly the geographical borders of NATO are seems, at the moment, difficult to properly determine. NATO member nations have established military bases on foreign soil around the globe – the US alone operating bases in 85 foreign countries.
Under the theme of collective security through the NATO framework, Trudeau praised the June announcement of $38.6 billion of funding over the next 20 years for NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), noting that “these investments represent the most significant upgrade in Canadian NORAD capabilities in almost four decades.”
The question that arises out of these statements, never addressed in multiple media reports, is why this colossal expenditure is necessary. If the sanctions against Russia’s economy are working and will cripple the nation, bringing the conflict in Ukraine to a halt and, presumably, achieve the task of “regime change” openly called for by President Joe Biden when on March 26 he said “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power” – who exactly will we be defending against?
The short answer is: no one.
Examining statements made by Russia, the presumed aggressor in a hypothetical invasion of Canada’s northern coast, their concerns are largely economic, confined to securing the Northern Sea Route – a key shipping lane that runs along the coast of Russia from the Kara Sea in the west to the Bering Strait in the east. The NSR is a pillar in the future growth of the Russian economy, allowing for ships to move from ports into both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
As the Prime Minister of Russia Mikhail Mishustin stated in a recent meeting on the subject:
“The Government continues to develop the Northern Sea Route as a major transport corridor of global significance. It is being used to carry the bulk of deliveries to our northern regions, metals and energy to the global market, as well as transit cargo between Asia and Europe. […] it is exceptionally important in the context of the current sanctions, which have disrupted logistic chains. It is a reliable sea route that is in great demand for businesses and, of course, for people in the Arctic and the Far East.”
Lying in Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from its’ coast, the NSR is far from Canada’s borders – over 1,100 nautical miles. That did not stop Jens Stoltenberg from casting Russian investment in its’ Zone as a threat: “Russia has set up a new Arctic command,” he said. “It has opened hundreds of new and former Soviet-era Arctic military sites, including airfields and deep water ports. Russia is also using the region as a test bed for many of its new novel weapon systems.”
Not missing the opportunity, Stoltenberg also made sure to weave China into his comments, stating that “It is investing billions of dollars in energy infrastructure and research projects in the high North […] Beijing and Moscow have also pledged to intensify practical operation in the Arctic. This forms part of the deepening strategic partnership that challenges our values and our interests.”
One wonders if NATO’s appetite may be too big for its’ stomach.
With various problems forcing Canada’s first Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship, HMCS Harry DeWolf, back to port over the past two years, and questions from the Senate Defence Committee on the viability of the entire AOPS fleet – awarded to Irving Shipbuilding in 2015 and now reported as costing $4.3 billion – it seems only reasonable to ask how realistic or vital “Arctic defence” really is.
In the context of NORAD, a hypothetical scenario involving any nation sending anything of a military nature near the coastal borders of North America doesn’t even bear considering. Any intentional missile strike, any incursion by a hostile aircraft or naval ship would be met with immediate US reprisal on a massive scale decimating the target nation and in the case of Russia, would lead to unchecked escalation and ultimately nuclear annihilation for all parties.
Further to this, the concept of another nation attempting an actual ground invasion of the North American continent in order to secure “our natural resources” is so absurd it has no basis in reality. A clear and present threat is finance capital’s increasing interest in water as a scarce commodity.
While the Trudeau administration seeks to expand its’ “deterrence posture” and exercise “sovereignty” in the barren Arctic, where the Canadian government has a long history of mistreatment of Indigenous populations, NATO and its partners continue to train and equip Ukrainian citizens only to put them at the receiving end of a hellish barrage of Russian artillery, missile fire and air support in a largely asymmetrical combat situation they cannot hope to win.
Already the estimates of casualties in the Ukraine conflict printed in Canadian media have been disturbingly out of touch with the situation on the ground. The Ukrainian Armed Forces Command recently suggested that only 9000 of its’ soldiers had been killed and “US military officials” put Russian losses at 80,000 – numbers that make no sense when examining how the war is actually being fought, with Russia deploying overwhelming fire superiority. Russian artillery shelling has been relentless, some estimates putting the rate at 100 to 1, destroying Ukrainian positions before battle-hardened local militia, Wagner private military contractors, Russian regulars and Chechen special forces fighters conduct mop-up operations and consolidate gains.
With regard to morale, NATO countries have certainly gone above and beyond in extending Ukrainian information warfare operations in order to obscure the reality of the fighting – few foreign journalists have been allowed access to Ukraine and even fewer have managed to travel to frontline areas. Most have based coverage on prepared briefings provided by military officials in Kyiv, Washington and London. In perhaps the most egregious example of media complicity, CBS even retracted and censored its’ own report on the apparent lack of military aid reaching the front after Ukrainian officials complained to the news outlet.
Most recently, the Ukrainian military appears to have suffered its’ worst week since the fighting began with an attempted counteroffensive operation in the Kherson region, with reports of thousands of casualties overwhelming hospitals in Mykolaiv and Odessa. As casualty reports filtered through social media channels, the Ukrainian Armed Forces Command issued new directives to media and the population, stating that only the UAF could issue statements about the outcome of operations, and that all citizens should refrain from posting their speculations online. The officials have, to date, not provided the names of any settlements that have been taken and held as a result of the massive, much-touted operation.
In the capitals of the US, Canada and other NATO countries, the situation is perfectly acceptable as long as the Ukrainians – kept in a tightly controlled information environment – are willing to do the dying. As Lt. Gen. Mark Schwartz, a former commander of the US Special Operations Command Europe and an architect of the “Resistance Operating Concept” implemented in Ukraine in 2014 put it, “It’s just incredible to watch that despite the unbelievable loss of life and sacrifice, what the will to resist and the resolve to resist can do.”
In short, propaganda works.
Every Ukrainian soldier trained by Canada and other NATO partners, since the inception of Op UNIFIER initially overseen by then-Minister of Defence Jason Kenney, has been and is being sent to their likely death with the full knowledge of the leaders of these countries.
The mass delusion that has swept up the entire political class of NATO countries, bolstered by a combination of uncritical media repeating pro-war propaganda verbatim and censorship of anyone introducing nuance or advocating for a peaceful settlement to the conflict has resulted in a complete abandonment of reason.
This delusion is perfectly exemplified by the recent G7 Finance Minister’s statement which proposed a price cap on Russian oil, which would “reduce Russian revenues” by enacting “a comprehensive prohibition of services which enable maritime transportation of Russian-origin crude oil and petroleum products globally – the provision of such services would only be allowed if the oil and petroleum products are purchased at or below a price […] determined by the broad coalition of countries adhering to and implementing the price cap.”
In order for this framework to function as intended, all countries buying Russian oil would have to participate. Russia has already stated that it will not ship oil to any country that signs on to the G7 initiative, with some of the biggest importers – India and China – signalling that they will not do so as they prioritize their own energy security over the whims of the G7.
The likely outcome from a price cap scheme is a complete halt to the direct flows of energy from Russia to any signatory, crippling European economies even further and causing oil prices to climb higher. While the G7 proposes to hinder maritime transportation of oil by targeting shipping insurance dominated by UK-based insurers, it’s possible that importers will simply switch to non-European insurers to circumvent the cap system.
What’s more, in order for the cap to take effect across the entire European Union, that body would need to amend its sanctions passed at the end of May and achieve unanimous support.
That unanimous support is in question, as multiple protests have broken out across Europe before the onset of winter. In the Czech Republic an estimated 70,000 demonstrated in favour of reduced support for Ukraine, military neutrality, and to secure energy supply from Russia. Notably, Prime Minister Petr Fiala blamed the mass protest on “Russian [….] disinformation campaigns” ignoring the possibility that citizens may simply be acting in their own self-interest.
As a global recession takes hold, and is exacerbated by radical economic policies such as the G7 price cap which is dubious at best, the risk of mass civil unrest grows exponentially. The first step to reintroducing stability to the world economy must be a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Ukraine, which will require Canada to demand President Zelensky re-establish the recently disbanded delegation to the Contact Group in order to resume talks and bring the fighting to an end.
The current path, marked by NATO countries’ escalation of commitment, will only lead to further ruin for Ukraine as their soldiers die for nothing. In their blind fervour to cast Russia as an absolute evil – a necessary precondition for the bolstering of the ethno-nationalist elements within Ukraine, enabling them to build a sizable army – re-igniting the Cold War, NATO has become an even bigger monster, allowing leaders, policymakers, media pundits, and naïve citizens to participate in a delirious and ultimately suicidal crusade in the name of “democracy.” All this while Ukraine has only one single functioning political party.
In truth, the imagined Russian horde coming over Canada’s northern coast will never materialize. A country such as Russia, vast and rich in resources, seems to have no interest in the conquest of a nation an ocean away, which is doing a fine job of eroding from internal issues on its own.
Ryan Hillier is a Moncton-based writer and musician.