TORONTO (AP) — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Friday about Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic and China’s increasing interest in that part of the world.
During a visit to Canada’s north, Stoltenberg said the shortest path to North America for Russian missiles and bombers is over the North Pole. He said Russia has set up a new Arctic Command and has opened hundreds of new and former Soviet-era Arctic military sites, including airfields and deep-water ports.
“We see a significant Russian military build-up with new bases, new weapons systems, and also using the High North as a test bed for their most advanced weapons, including hypersonic missiles,” Stoltenberg said at a Canadian military base in Cold Lake, Alberta.
Stoltenberg also noted China has declared itself a “near Arctic” state. He said Beijing plans to build the world’s largest icebreaker and is spending tens of billions of dollars on energy, infrastructure, and research projects in the north.
“Beijing and Moscow have also pledged to intensify practical cooperation in the Arctic. This forms part of a deepening strategic partnership that challenges our values and interests,” Stoltenberg said.
He also noted climate change is making the Arctic more accessible for militaries and welcomed Canada’s recent announcement that it will bolster its spending on defense.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who accompanied Stoltenberg, showcased some of the spending and activities that Canada is making in the north. Those include promises to allocate billions of dollars for new military equipment and capabilities, including plans to purchase new fighter jets and modernize North America’s aging NORAD early-warning system with Washington.
“The ill-fated, unjustifiable decision of Russia to upend nearly 70 years of peace and stability of a rules-based order by invading a peaceful neighbor, has changed the way we need to look at the Arctic,” Trudeau said, alluding to the Russian attack on Ukraine.