Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – 2 June 12

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  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper marked Canadian Armed Forces Day by visiting the city in northern Ontario known for its underground NORAD base, praising the work of the military and deriding “moral equivalency” of the Cold War. The military monitored the skies 24 hours a day for more than 40 years in North Bay, Ont., from underground NORAD operations, a facility cut through the Canadian Shield and built to withstand a nuclear blast. Speaking at an event in North Bay today, Harper says NORAD’s operations in the city are now above ground, but are just as crucial. He says the skies remain uncertain in the post-9/11 world, and says it’s important to remember the first duty of a national government is to protect its people and its territory from external threats ….” – more from the Government Info-machine here.
  • Canada is seeking a deal with Singapore to establish a military staging post there as part of its effort to support the United States’ “pivot” toward Asia to counter a rising China. Defence Minister Peter MacKay revealed the plan in an exclusive interview Friday with The Canadian Press from Singapore, where he was attending a major security conference. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to give more details of the Pentagon’s renewed military focus on Asia during a major speech in Singapore on Saturday at the Shangri-La Dialogue. The Pentagon’s Asia tilt comes in response to China’s rising military spending. “This entire concept — the buzzword is the pivot to the Pacific — it’s a recognition of the regional power dynamics here that do affect us with China expanding and modernizing their military capabilities,” said MacKay. To that end, MacKay said Canada is looking at a cost-effective way of increasing its military footprint in the region. MacKay said a military hub in Singapore would be similar to the arrangements it has reached with Kuwait and Jamaica, to give it military footholds in the Middle East and the Caribbean. “Everything that the United States does is off the charts in terms of their scale compared to everyone else. But other countries, including us, are looking at having a greater presence and ability to mobilize here in this region. That includes things like humanitarian relief.” MacKay treaded carefully when discussing China’s military buildup because the Harper government is courting Beijing to boost two-way trade and Canadian energy exports from Alberta’s oilsands. He noted a delicate balance must be maintained between Canada’s new Asia-focused economic priorities and its security interests in the region ….”
  • One Rear Admiral’s assessment of some of Canada’s security concerns “…. One of the biggest issues is the ability to keep sea [lanes] open. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of disenfranchised and failed and failing states, all coastal, many of them coastal–you just have to look at Somalia or what’s happening in Yemen, the Straits of Malacca, piracy. Events which are impacting global trade. When you put that environment with terrorism and disenfranchised youth and no apparent means for success, which is why we had the Arab Spring, I would say the increase of global terrorism is a clear concern ….”
  • Afghanistan  Joe Biden called Stephen Harper on Thursday to thank him for Canada’s recent commitment to contribute funds to Afghan security forces, the vice-president’s office said. The call came in the wake of the recent NATO summit in Chicago, where the prime minister rejected a call from the alliance to extend Canada’s current training mission in the war-torn country, insisting instead that Canadian troops would be out of Afghanistan by the end of March 2014. Harper did, however, pledge $330 million to support Afghan National Security Forces for three years starting in 2015 — the apparent subject of Biden’s phone call. U.S. President Barack Obama, meantime, also made some phone calls to world leaders this week. The president had a videoconference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to discuss “developments in Europe.” “Leaders agreed to continue to consult closely as they prepare to meet at the G20 summit in Mexico next month,” the White House said in a statement ….”
  • Way Up North (1a)  Little is known about China’s ambitions in the circumpolar north. However, as it increasingly asserts itself as a global power, it seems determined to take an active part in the Arctic’s regional affairs.”
  • Way Up North (1b)  “Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao went to Iceland in late April, the first time a senior Chinese leader had made a formal visit to this Nordic country since 2002, when president Jiang Zemin paid a state visit. Apart from agreement on bilateral cooperation on geothermal issues signed in Reykjavik, Wen also inked a framework accord on North Pole cooperation, attracting the attention of long-time observers of China’s ambitions in the Arctic ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? Canada’s Department of National Defence has selected a series of training simulations for its systems that counter improvised explosive devices. The Virtual Task Trainers from Vancouver-based NGRAIN will be used to teach maintenance skills for Expedient Route Operating Capability (EROC) vehicles and Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) devices. The simulations are responses to maintenance issues with heavy vehicles built to survive IED explosions, which makes removing components for repair difficult. The Buffalo IED clearance vehicle will receive Power Pack Removal and Transfer Case virtual trainers that will be used in schoolhouses and by combat engineer units. The Husky mine detection vehicle is equipped with ground penetration radar (GPR) that is difficult to remove and install, according to NGRAIN. A GPR virtual task trainer for the Husky will provide systems overviews, animations, and interactive models for virtual maintenance practice ….”
  • The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, (Friday) issued the following statement on the occasion of a memorial event held in honour of Canada’s first Judge Advocate General ….”
  • Good show  “…. the musicians of the Canadian Forces united with a group of civilian Canadian singers to release the album “Sound of Freedom.” The record delivers more than the traditional marching tunes one would expect to hear on a disc of its nature, and its proceeds will go to benefit The Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services (CFPFSS). Sam Reid (the Canadian songwriter/music producer who also plays piano for Glass Tiger, one of Canada’s most successful rock bands) produced the album and spoke with Yahoo! Canada Music this week about the vision of “Sound of Freedom.” “I didn’t want it to be a tribute record,” Reid said. “Just because it’s been done, and done in a great way, but I thought that we should do something completely different.” That is to say, Reid chose to feature new contemporary pop songs on the album that didn’t necessarily have obvious military connotations. He also wanted to focus on representing the military musicians who performed on the album to the fullest ….”

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