Canada: US relations: Canada's territorial sovereignty over Arctic is also geostrategic in age of global warming
In the hubbub following Prime Minister-elect Stephen Harper's assertion of Canadian sovereignty over its Arctic waters, I have yet to find much of a hint as to why his move makes real geostrategic sense - also for the US, the ostensible offender in this case. When the Associated Press broke the story, Washington Post carried it under Beth Duff-Brown's byline (Jan26,2k6), Canada reasserts Arctic sovereignty. Worth reading.
Rookmaker Club geostrategic analysis
The next day, Canadian Press's reporter, Murray Brewster had his rendition, "Harper tells US to butt out," which appeared somewhat bumptiously in National Post (Jan27,2k6). But here again, as from the tone of the headline one can gather, the whole background was Martinesque. It was assumed that the forays into the States of Martin campaigning for our Canadian version of the proper pricing of our softwood lumber was about as far as sovereignty went (a NAFTA panel favoured Canada, a WTO panel favoured the neighbours). But there's a lot more to this matter of Arctic sovereignty than the papers and the punditi have noticed.
Canada can no longer avoid noticing what happens in the Far North onshore or off. Climate change has something important to do with that. For one thing, the disappearance of ice for greater parts of the year, brings us much closer to Russia. And to Denmark. And to Iceland. And to international fishing, hunting activities. And to mineral and oil exploration, perhaps claims to drill below water and to establish offshore oil platforms. Not just relative "proximity," but also to a potential desire to use and exploit hitherto-non-existent shipping lanes. Which reasonably should be monitored by rescue stations, medical facilities, and some deep-water ports - if we're talking about the distance from the most northwest corner of the Northwest Territories to the most northeast corner of Inualivut, Newfoundland and Labrador.
What if there's a major ecological disaster as a result of all this far-off and ungoverned shipping? - as some envision with the opening of a true Northwest passsage.
The notion of the American Ambassador to Canada, expressed publicly and ill-advisedly, was answered well by PM-elect Harper. The US actually needs Canadian presence and governance of these waters, so that not just any commerical interest flying the flag of convenience of some fee-hungry smallish country, or the flag of some larger power like Russia or China or even, these days, of rogue states like North Korea or Iran: none can establish water-based satellites in the newly-opened shipping lanes, nor enrcroach further on the newly-accessible islands and continental shores.
Indeed, the USA should be most happy to neogitate arrangements and to pay fees for any use of these waters, on terms that are environmentally friendly, so that Canada and the USA can better protect all the inhabitants of the continent of North America. If deference to our claims can be sweetened for the USA by our joining in the Missile Defense Shield, without even contributing to its financing (as offered), whereas Canada would meet the expenses and provide the policing for any development of the Northwest Passage, and collect the fees for approved users, then the two countries would gain signficant benefits.
To her credit, freelancer Rondi Adamson, writing in Toronto Star yesterday, did add a word of sanity contra the Star's earlier nonsense about Harper's alleged posturing. Policies based on reality, instead of simply opposing US, strengthens our voice, says Rondi Adamson, (Jan29,2k6).
The received wisdom — or the received paranoia — among some Canadians seems to be that the Conservative victory will necessarily mean Canada will do nothing in future but bow to Washington. Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, this mantra goes, Canada will not make decisions on its own, but what Washington dictates. We will lose all independence and self-respect.We've witnessed such in the conduct of relations with the USA visited upon us by Paul Martin, and by certain loudmouthed Liberals no longer around to muddy the discourse.
I would argue the opposite. Under a Harper government, foreign policy decisions will not be based on an adolescent need to "stand up to" or adopt a posture of rebellion or condescension toward the United States. Foreign policy decisions should, and I hope will, be based on a realistic assessment of the threats that face us, and where in the world we want our moral place to be. I think this approach is one Canadians would appreciate, and indeed prefer, over the teenage "I'm doing the opposite of what you say" approach we have previously witnessed.
When I witessed on TV, Carolyn Parrish, Lib MP, plant her foot squarely in the crotch of a toy-Bush, squashing the figure's genitalia into the floor, as part of a vile charade on a comedy show, I realized just how far out the Martinite government and party had strayed from any authentic diplomacy. Martinism opened the way to these "assertions of sovereignty." We can't do worse. When finally Martin's caucusoid was expelled from the Lib caucus in Parliament, we should be careful to note that it was not for the cited offence or for her Bush-is-a-bastard remark, but for her criticism of Martin himself, however much less insultingly, that she got the boot. Of course, even sitting as an independent, Parrish the pariah did prop up the now-ousted Martin government.