NATO chief warns about Russia’s Arctic military build-up on Canada visit

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called for more investment in the Arctic as Moscow reopens hundreds of soviet-era military sites.

Stoltenberg warning came while he was visiting Canada’s Arctic region – the first time a NATO security general has done so in the history of the alliance.

During the visit, Stoltenberg also stressed that the shortest route for Russian missiles and bombers to reach North America would be through the North Pole.

“Russia has set up a new Arctic Command. 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 testbed for many of its new and novel weapons systems,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO’s secretary-General also noted that after Finland and Sweden join the alliance, seven of the eight Arctic countries will be NATO members, except only Russia.

Before this visit, Canada has been wary of a NATO presence in its Arctic region.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, noted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has changed the geopolitical situation.

“It is important that we all recognise the shifting geopolitical realities that the world is now facing and across the NATO alliance countries are investing more in the ability to secure NATO territory including across the Arctic,” Trudeau said.

Canada has also been previously criticised for not spending enough on its military as a NATO member. But in June, it announced a €3.8 billion investment in modernizing its NORAD facilities.

NORAD, or the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is a joint venture with Washington to detect incoming Russian aircraft or missiles.

Stoltenberg and Trudeau also said climate change is creating new security challenges in the arctic, as melting ice is making the area more accessible to militaries.

And Stoltenberg expressed concerns about cooperation between Beijing and Moscow for shipping and resources exploration in the Arctic. 

China is also planning to construct the world’s largest icebreaker fleet.