This week both the American and Canadian governments released the details of a “Tri-Command Framework for Arctic Cooperation” that would more closely coordinate the work of the U.S. Northern Command, Canada’s Joint Operational Command and NORAD in the arctic.
While noting that the arctic region is not an area of conflict and that the Canadian and American militaries will work primarily to support the work of other government departments, the agreement announced, “The goal is to promote enhanced military cooperation in the arctic, particularly in support of safety, security and defence operations.” It was also made clear they would “collaborate more closely in a host of areas, including training, capabilities, research and development, science and technology, domain awareness, communications and operations.”
I strongly endorse this effort, largely because of recent reports of foreign vessels arriving unannounced in various Canadian arctic harbours. Any effort that increases our surveillance there is to be welcomed and increases our sovereignty directly. NORAD has a long history of doing this well. I also think this initial enhanced cooperation in domain awareness might lead to expanded Canada-U.S. cooperation elsewhere. While the political difficulties will be immense, there is just the slimmest of possibilities that day-to-day technical cooperation here might spill over into a process that overcomes the two nations’ opposing views on the legal status of the Northwest Passage. Certainly, both governments’ press releases noted the need to respond to the challenges of increased shipping in an opening Arctic Ocean.