In the wee hours of what seemed to be an ordinary Friday, two Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) fighters scrambled to respond to an alert from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which had detected a pair of Russian Tu-95 bombers approaching Canadian airspace.
Intercepted only 50 km away from the coast, the Russians turned away at the sight of the RCAF. Later that same day, six Russian aircraft — a pair each of bombers, tankers, and fighters — were intercepted 60 km off of the Alaskan coast, and were warned off by United States Air Force jets.
While this may seem like a scene from the long-dead Cold War, it happened less than two weeks ago, as Russia attempted to push back against the West for its support of Ukraine during the recent turmoil there.
Canada, in particular, seems to be a target; earlier this month, Russian military aircraft buzzed the HMCS Toronto while the vessel was on manoeuvres in the Black Sea with other NATO warships. One Russian jet came within 300 metres of the Canadian vessel, causing the ship to lock weapons on the fighter. Russia’s actions make sense in light of Canada’s strong support for Ukraine and continual confrontation with the Eurasian giant over the Arctic.
There are some concerns if this becomes a pattern of behaviour in what is rapidly becoming a new Cold War, mainly the ability of the RCAF to continue to intercept Russian aircraft, as it will put increasing strain on both the pilots and the planes. Some would suggest that this is a sign that our country should back down from its position, but we must not allow the difficulty of a task to prevent us from doing what is right.
You make bullies back down by showing them that you refuse to be pushed around.
Russia is acting as little more than the schoolyard bully, threatening to take our lunch money if we don’t do what he wants. If there’s one thing I learned from being bullied in school, it’s that you don’t make bullies go away by backing down. You make them back down by standing up to them and showing them that you refuse to be pushed around.
I am not saying that there will not be great controversy over our government’s decision to stand firm in the face of Russian pressure. Likewise, I am sure there will be increasing criticism over the deployment of Canadian Forces personnel and equipment to Eastern Europe, as well as the deployment of military advisors from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment to provide tactical guidance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces currently battling ISIS. This announcement was made at the recent NATO summit in Wales, as the alliance also prepared to bolster its rapid reaction forces in order to make them capable of deploying to countries under Russian threat within 48 hours.
Canada has had a long history of standing up for a nation’s right to self-determination, and to democratic principles such as the ability to choose one’s government in free, honest, and open elections, something Russian President Vladimir Putin violated in his illegal seizure of Crimea.
It is in defence of these principles that Canada went to war 100 years ago, and did so again 25 years later. It is in defence of the rights of the people not to be subject to terror that the Canadian Armed Forces have deployed in battlefields and on peacekeeping missions around the world. We must not back down in the face of this new threat; we must, as Canadian forces so valiantly did at Ypres in the First World War, hold the line.