Tory government misplaces Canadian Arctic

In an effort to bolster its claims that Canada needs the F-35 to defend Canadian sovereignty in the North, the Conservative Party is pointing to the recent intercept of two Russian Bear aircraft “over the Arctic” by Canadian CF-18s as evidence of the need for new fighters, claiming that the intercept puts Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in an embarrassing position.

“Mere days ago,” Tory talking points gloat, “Michael Ignatieff pledged to cancel the new fighter jets the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces urgently need. Embarrassingly for him, Russian bomber flights over the Arctic — just two days ago — underscore why our men and women in uniform need modern equipment to do their jobs.”

Embarrassingly for the Tories, however, the location of the flights appears to have been nowhere near the Canadian Arctic.  According to the Toronto Sun, the Russian Bears were intercepted “about 463 km east of Goose Bay, N.L.” (Brian Lilley, “Canadian jets repel Russian bombers,” Toronto Sun, 30 July 2010).

Which would be more than one thousand kilometres south of the Arctic Circle.

But, hey, just because the Tories don’t know where the Arctic is doesn’t mean we can’t count on them to defend our sovereignty in said region, does it? Surely not.

Left unexplained is how a bomber flight in international airspace hundreds of kilometres from Canadian territory is evidence of a threat to Canadian sovereignty — or for that matter how the successful intercept by 30-year-old fighters of 30-year-old turboprop bombers (or was it actually maritime patrol aircraft?) based on a 60-year-old design demonstrates a need for brand new “fifth generation” stealth fighters.

The Toronto Sun article does its best to hype the “threat” by reporting uncritically that the Russian aircraft “may have been loaded with [nuclear] warheads on this trip. One military analyst tells QMI Agency the Russians have been known to fly with nukes on board just to flex their muscle and prove to the world they are still a powerful country.”

This statement is complete nonsense–the Russians, and the Soviets before them, have never been known to engage in such practices–but since the claim reportedly comes from a “military analyst”, not a “peace activist”, we can be sure that Sen. Wallin, at least, will find the claim credible.

Tags: Arctic sovereignty, Canadian Arctic, CF-18, Defence policy, F-35, Russia, Tu-95 Bear