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NATO eyes greater control over North Atlantic amid increased Russian activity


OTTAWA — Growing worries about Russian military activity in the North Atlantic have prompted NATO to start examining ways to better secure the region — which could have direct implications for Canada.

In an interview with The Canadian Press on Friday, NATO's top general said there is "increased concern" within the military alliance about security of the North Atlantic.

Gen. Petr Pavel, chairman of NATO's military committee, said that concern is a reaction to increased Russian activities in the air and at sea and he cited Russian submarines as a specific worry.

That is why the alliance is drawing up plans for the establishment of what's known as a joint force command for the North Atlantic, Pavel said, which would specifically prepare for, plan and conduct military operations in the region.

The hope is that a final proposal will be ready in time to be presented to NATO leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, when they meet in Brussels in July.

Canada does not appear on the short list for the location of a joint force command; NATO sources told Bloomberg last month that the new headquarters will be based in the U.S.

But the Canadian military played a large role in securing the Atlantic — the lifeline for moving supplies and reinforcements to Europe from North America — during both world wars as well as during the Cold War.

That is why the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force have long focused on anti-submarine capabilities, which NATO could call upon again as it seeks to flex its muscles in the region.

Pavel, who is originally from the Czech Republic and was in Ottawa following a visit to Washington earlier this week, said NATO is also grappling with cyberspace, which is becoming increasingly militarized, but still lacks any clear rules.

Cyberattacks can be as deadly as conventional weapons, he added, and while NATO is strengthening its defences, it also wants to work with countries like Russia and China to set clear rules for when they can and cannot be used.

"It's still a largely unmapped domain without rules for engagement," Pavel said.

"We have a number of treaties and regulations in the conventional domain. We have a number of treaties and regulations in the nuclear domain. But we would like most of these regulations in the cyber domain."

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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