Canada’s and Russia’s Security and Defence Strategies in the Arctic: A Comparative Analysis


  • P. Whitney Lackenbauer Trent University, Canada
  • Alexander Sergunin St. Petersburg State University, Russian Federation


This comparative article reveals how the general focus of Canadian and Russian threat perceptions in the Arctic have shifted from a Cold War fixation on hard defence to accommodate soft security issues over the last three decades. Both countries now pay greater attention to threats and challenges stemming from climate change, security, and safety risks associated with resource development and increasingly accessible sea routes. Although concern about military conflict arising from Arctic disputes continues to frame some media discussions in both countries, most strategic analysts and academics have moved away from this line of argument. Instead, military functions now include assertion of Canadian and Russian sovereignty over their respective internal waters, as well as protection of resources in their exclusive economic zones and on and in extended continental shelves; protection of economic interests in the North, including mineral and bio-resources; prevention of potential terrorist attacks against critical industrial and state infrastructure; and dual-use functions, such as search and rescue operations, surveillance of air and maritime spaces, support to safe navigation, and mitigation of natural and human-made catastrophes.

The authors argue that analysts should parse two forms of military modernization in the Arctic: one of capability development related to the global strategic balance, where the Arctic serves as a bastion or a thoroughfare; and a second intended to address emerging non-traditional security challenges. They contend that these modernization programs do not inherently upset the Arctic military balance and need not provoke a regional arms race.

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Author Biography

Alexander Sergunin, St. Petersburg State University, Russian Federation

Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and Department of Theory and History of International Relations



How to Cite

Lackenbauer, P. W., & Sergunin, A. (2022). Canada’s and Russia’s Security and Defence Strategies in the Arctic: A Comparative Analysis. Arctic Review on Law and Politics, 13, 232–257.



Original Articles



Canada, Russia, Arctic, security, defence strategies