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The Canadian Military Is Playing War Games Aimed at Russia

At a time when the specter of the Russian military is high on the minds of European countries fearful of the next Ukraine, Canada's Department of National Defense is playing tough with President Vladimir Putin.

by Ben Makuch
03 April 2015, 7:00am

Russian Victory Day celebration. Photo via Flickr user Pavel Kazachkov

This post originally appeared on VICE Canada.

At a time when the specter of the Russian military is high on the minds of European countries fearful of the next Ukraine, Canada's Department of National Defense is playing tough with President Vladimir Putin.

Four different military exercises appear to be aimed at the Russian military as Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members deploy in both the Arctic and Eastern Europe—contentious areas of particular geopolitical importance to Mr. Putin.

In a release from the Department of National Defense (DND), Jason Kenney applauded the latest CAF exercise in Eastern Europe with NATO allies bordering Russia.

"Canada's participation in multinational training opportunities such as Ex Mountain Warrior demonstrates our commitment to collective defense and our condemnation of the Putin regime's aggression and its attempts to undermine the security and sovereignty of Ukraine," said Kenney, pointing out that the joint exercise highlights NATO efforts to project the strength of "Allied solidarity" for nations in East and Central Europe.

Ex Mountain Warrior and another exercise, Summer Shield, sees soldiers from the Royal Canadian Regiment showcasing their live-fire "military muscle" in a NATO training exercise alongside the Latvian, Lithuanian, and Polish militaries.

The Baltic countries, along with Poland, have felt the impingement of Russian influence since the invasion of Ukraine sent chills through former Soviet republics. Estonia—much like Ukraine, a country with a sizable ethnic Russian population—had an intelligence agent allegedly abducted by Russia, raising fears of a potential invasion.

Canadian military ships. Photo via Canadian Armed Forces

In geopolitics, military exercises are passive-aggressive peacocking drills involving troop movements along hostile borders in the name of armed readiness—designed with making your enemy-in-mind.

The South Koreans do it to the North Koreans, and vice versa, while Russia is even known for staging exercises simulating the nuclear annihilation of Warsaw, the capital of rival nation Poland.

Canada, which is in a quasi-standoff with Russia over conflicting Arctic land claims, is beginning to do the same, coupled with outbursts from key political figures in Stephen Harper's retinue against Russia.

Lately, Kenney is leading that charge.

Several weeks ago, he claimed Russian bombers buzzed a Canadian warship in the Black Sea during a NATO maritime exercise designed to poke the Russian Bear. Kenney's claims were eventually debunked as hyperbole by NATO itself.

At the same time as a sudden Arctic military deployment for the Russian military, CAF soldiers are in the High Arctic for operation Norex and Nunalivut using "live-fire exercises and patrols in isolated areas" to "highlight the Canadian Army's ability to assert Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic," according to a DND statement.

Protecting our "sovereignty" in the Far North is a direct nod to Russia, given Canada's own battle for its Arctic borders with the former world superpower—a serious development amid actual fears about what Russia will do next.

Meanwhile, Kenney's bold words, largely imitating the stance his boss took a year earlier, might have more to do with voters than geopolitical gamesmanship. Either way, the tensions are real and the Cold War Part Two seems nigh.

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