In a recent development in Canada’s struggle for Arctic sovereignty, our government is sending two icebreakers to explore the Eastern side of the very Canadian sounding “Lomonosov Ridge.” Reasons for supporting the survey of a portion of Canada’s more than 1.2 million square kilometers of Arctic claims include strained relations between Russia and Canada, the potential wealth of resources found on the Arctic seabed, and standing our ground in negotiating Arctic territory.
Rob Huebert, of the University of Calgary, says, “I would suspect [Russia] would see this as a continuation of Western encirclement. It may be at the point where Putin is willing to push back.”
Given the situation in the Ukraine, Putin’s priorities would most certainly include monitoring the progress of Canada’s two icebreakers. If Putin is paying attention, he would notice that one of the icebreakers is named after prime minister Louis St. Laurent, one of the leading proponents of NATO, and a fierce anti-communist. Coincidence? We think not.
Despite this, and considering Harper has fiercely advocated for Arctic Sovereignty (it ranks a couple hundred priorities above addressing the living standards of those residing in the region), Putin has actually made steps towards compromise on this issue with Canada, perhaps so that Canadian leaders would stop comparing him to Hitler with regards to the situation in the Ukraine. To sum the situation up in the wise words of foreign policy expert Ariana Grande, “he got 99 problems, but that ridge ain’t one.”
We also cannot forget the claims made by Denmark. Normally, this pimple on the map of Europe is seen favourably by Canadians, who, not knowing much about it, attribute it wrongly to Aqua, Conan the Barbarian, and Beowulf.
Yet our countries’ histories have been fraught with conflict for millennia, which began with the Viking’s first attempts to encroach on Canadian territory around 1000 AD. After the natives who inhabited the area drove the colonists out, the struggle re-emerged most recently in the dispute over Hans Island, in what was seen as a schnapps in Canadian/Danish relations. Both countries left flags and bottles of national alcohol on the island, which sits exactly halfway between Ellesmere Island and Danish territory in Greenland.
There are interesting parallels with the struggle for Arctic Sovereignty, and Disney’s Frozen. When it comes down to it, the plot revolves around the main characters fighting over the guardianship of a wasteland plunged in eternal winter. Economic profits are speculated to be made in both Arendelle and the Arctic after the snow melts. However, instead of counting on “an act of true love” to unfreeze this kingdom of isolation, our real life leaders are counting on global warming.
Also, like Frozen, the issue of Arctic Sovereignty probably gets more media attention than it merits. Perhaps progress could be made if some of the major powers just “let it go.”