Britain is signalling its interest in working with the Canadian military in the Arctic by offering to take part in cold-weather exercises and bring in some of its more advanced capabilities — such as nuclear-powered submarines — to help with surveillance and defence in the Far North.
In a recent exclusive interview with CBC News, the United Kingdom’s top military commander said his country is “keen to cooperate” and learn more about how to survive and fight in a cold, remote setting.
Gen. Sir Nick Carter said Britain would also like to “cooperate in terms of helping Canada do what Canada needs to do as an Arctic country.”
The offer was quietly floated months ago in government circles. Experts say, however, that successive Canadian governments have been reluctant to allow anyone — even close allies — to become too deeply embedded in the region.
WATCH: Gen. Sir Nick Carter discusses the prospect of military cooperation with Canada in the Arctic
Much of that reluctance has to do with contested claims to Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic. Concern over Canada’s exclusion from the recent security pact between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia may lend fresh urgency to the U.K.’s proposal, however.
CBC’s interview with Gen. Carter was conducted before the AUKUS pact was announced.
As members of NATO, both Britain and Canada have taken part in winter warfare exercises in Norway. Gen. Carter said he believes that cooperation could be expanded to the benefit of both countries. The British Army has for many years conducted armoured and combined warfare training at Suffield, Alta.
Keeping a closer eye on the Arctic
The Arctic is becoming more of a focus for NATO and Canada’s closest allies. The potential threat posed by the reactivation of Russia’s northern Cold War-era bases, as well as the interest of possible adversaries such as China, figured promptly in speeches and panel discussions at the recent NATO leaders summit last June.
Canada’s former Conservative government placed a premium on increasing Canada’s military presence in the Far North; it built a naval refuelling station and set in motion the construction of Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, which are just being delivered.
Those measures offer Canada’s military limited capabilities, however. Underwater and satellite surveillance of the region is still in the planning and early implementation phases.
Carter said the U.K. has capabilities that could help keep closer tabs on the Arctic’s rapidly melting seas and inlets, but it would be up to the Canadian government to decide.
“We would absolutely defer to Canada’s expertise in this,” Carter told CBC News.
“I think we have military capabilities, certainly in the maritime domain and in terms of our science that would be useful to Canada and I think operating alongside Canada in that regard is going to be clearly good for both countries.”
What Britain has — and Canada lacks — is a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, which can operate under ice for extended periods of time.
When Canada bought its current diesel-electric submarines from Britain in the late 1990s it embarked on a project to retrofit them with fuel cells that would have delivered better, longer under-ice performance. The plan fell through and was quietly shelved.
In the late 1980s, the Conservative government of former prime minister Brian Mulroney proposed buying 12 nuclear-powered submarines with the goal of using them for Arctic defence. The end of the Cold War and subsequent defence cuts caused the plan to be shelved.
The University of Calgary’s Rob Huebert, one of the country’s leading experts on Arctic defence, said that after a hiatus of almost a dozen years, the British rejoined the biennial American high Arctic military exercise in 2018 with their nuclear-powered submarines.
Back in March, the Russians deployed three ultra-quiet nuclear subs to simultaneously punch through the Arctic ice in the same location — a demonstration that set the defence community buzzing.
“We do not have the capability of engaging Russian submarines or Chinese submarines, if and when that ever becomes a reality,” said Huebert, speaking about the Canadian navy’s Arctic inventory. “That’s the No. 1 capability that the British bring to the Arctic.”
CBC News asked Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office to comment on the notion of closer cooperation with the British in Canada’s Far North. The query went unanswered.
Huebert said successive Canadian governments have been reluctant to let the allies become more deeply involved in the region, beyond the Operation Nanook exercise held each summer.
“We’re fearful any type of involvement with NATO would undermine our sovereignty,” said Huebert, noting that both the United States and Britain do not recognize Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage.
Canada needs to show the flag: defence expert
The British offer of cooperation and assistance is a wake-up call for the Liberal government on several different fronts, said Dave Perry, a vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
It is, he said, a reminder that Canada needs to be more present in the region.
“There have been [Canadian] commitments to increase the situational awareness there, but that has a long way to go and the thing for Canadians to remember is that it is our actual territory and our backyard,” he said.
“I think it is great to work with other people, but we should be doing what we can to make sure we have a home field advantage.”
With Australia planning to acquire nuclear submarines — which conceivably could operate in the Arctic as well — Perry was asked if Canada will have to rely more on its allies to monitor and defend its territory.
“I think the AUKUS deal is an indicator that there are some countries with whom we have been intimately familiar and intimately allied with. Some of our best friends on the planet are firming even tighter, smaller clubs,” he said.
“The United States under successive administrations is being far less benign about allies that they look at as pulling — or not pulling — their weight … The United States is looking for people who will pull their weight.”
Bitcoin hovers near 6-month high on ETF hopes, inflation worries
Bitcoin hovered near a six-month high early on Monday on hopes that U.S. regulators would soon allow cryptocurrency exchange-traded funds (ETF) to trade, while global inflation worries also provided some support.
Bitcoin last stood at $62,359, near Friday’s six-month high of $62,944 and not far from its all-time high of $64,895 hit in April.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is set to allow the first American bitcoin futures ETF to begin trading this week, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, a move likely to lead to wider investment in digital assets.
Cryptocurrency players expect the approval of the first U.S. bitcoin ETF to trigger an influx of money from institutional players who cannot invest in digital coins at the moment.
Rising inflation worries also increased appetite for bitcoin, which is in limited supply, in contrast to the ample amount of currencies issued by central banks in recent years as monetary authorities printed money to stimulate their economies.
But some analysts noted that, after the recent rally, investors may sell bitcoin on the ETF news.
“The news of a suite of futures-tracking ETFs is not new to those following the space closely, and to many this is a step forward but not the game-changer that some are sensing,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone in Melbourne, Australia.
“We’ve been excited by a spot ETF before, and this may need more work on the regulation front.”
(Reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
China’s plunging construction starts reminiscent of 2015 downturn
China’s September new construction starts slumped for a sixth straight month, the longest spate of monthly declines since 2015, as cash-strapped developers put a pause on projects in the wake of tighter regulations on borrowing.
New construction starts in September fell 13.54% from a year earlier, the third month of double-digit declines, according to Reuters calculations based on January-September data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday.
That marks the longest downtrend since declines in March-August 2015, the last property malaise.
When the sector recovered in 2016 after authorities loosened their grip on purchases and development, tens of thousands of real estate firms borrowed heavily to build homes.
But as regulations tightened again this year, many of them have started to face a liquidity crunch, which was then worsened by sharply weaker demand due to tighter restrictions on speculative purchases.
Property sales by floor area dropped 15.8% in September, down for a third month, according to Reuters calculations based on the statistics bureau’s data.
The slowdown in the sector was also underscored by a 3.5% drop in property investments by developers in September, the first monthly decline since January-February last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in China.
“All the data are poor,” said Zhang Dawei, chief analyst with property agency Centaline.
“Financing is hard, sales are tough, so of course, there has been no enthusiasm to build. For the first time in history, developers are encountering two blockages – blockages in sales and blockages in financing.”
The potential collapse of highly indebted real estate firms such as China Evergrande Group have raised concerns about systemic risks to the broader economy. The real estate sector accounts for a quarter of China’s gross domestic product.
Authorities will try to prevent problems at Evergrande from spreading to other real estate companies to avoid broader systemic risk, Yi Gang, governor of China’s central bank, said on Sunday.
On Friday, a central bank official said the spillover effect of Evergrande’s debt problems on the banking system was “controllable.”
“There is a likelihood that housing policies may loosen in the fourth quarter, and that would ease the pessimism in the property transaction data,” said Yan Yuejin, director of Shanghai-based E-house China Research and Development Institution.
On Friday, representatives from 10 Chinese Property Companies met government regulators to ask for an “appropriate loosening” on policy restrictions, financial news outlet Yicai reported.
China’s real estate shares have fallen 22% so far this year. On Monday, they were down 2.6% as of 0300 GMT.
In the first nine months, property investment rose 8.8% from a year earlier, slowing from 10.9% growth seen in January-August.
Funds raised by China’s property developers grew 11.1%, slower than the 14.8% rise seen in the first eight months.
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
Saks Fifth Avenue ecommerce unit aims for IPO at $6 billion valuation – WSJ
The ecommerce business of luxury department store Saks OFF 5TH is preparing for an initial public offering and targeting a $6 billion valuation, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing sources.
The company is interviewing potential underwriters this week for an IPO that could take place in the first half of next year, according to the report.
(Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
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