Canada and Russia engaged in a war of words Friday over this week's confrontation between two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets and two Russian bombers.
National Defence officials said the fact that two Russian TU-95 Bears flew into Canada's "area of interest" - about 250 nautical miles, or 460 kilometres, away from Goose Bay, Nfld. - constituted a "close one." The incoming Russian planes were spotted by NORAD on Wednesday, and two Canadian fighter jets were dispatched from the air force base in Bagotville, Que., to meet them.
"This incident demonstrates why it is vitally important for the Canadian Armed Forces to have the best technology and equipment available. This is true whether we are asserting our Arctic sovereignty, fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan or aiding reconstruction efforts in Haiti," the Conservative Party said in talking points on the incident released Friday.
The Russian replied that the flight was simply a training exercise that didn't enter Canadian territory, which is defined as a 200-nautical-mile zone beyond the coast.
"We haven't violated Canadian airspace," an official at Russia's embassy in Ottawa told The Globe. "There is no problem here."
The Liberals said the government reacted appropriately to the Russian activity, given the country's attempts to lay claims to territories in the Arctic.
But Liberal MP Marc Garneau said that such flights "have been going on since the start of the Cold War," and that the Conservative government seems to be using the incident to justify its plans to buy new F-35 fighter jets at a total cost of about $16-billion.
Read the full set of Tory talking points below:
From: Alerte-Info-Alert <Alerte-Info-Alert@conservative.ca>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2010 07:33:01 -0700
Subject: Ignatieff Liberals Embarrassed by Russian Bomber Flights Over Arctic
Mere days ago Michael Ignatieff pledged to cancel the new fighter jets the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces urgently need.
Embarrassingly for him, Russian bomber flights over the Arctic -- just two days ago -- underscore why our men and women in uniform need modern equipment to do their jobs.
On Wednesday two CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft quickly responded when two Russian TU-95 Bear aircraft entered the Canadian buffer zone in front of our airspace.
Canadian pilots visually identified the aircraft as Russian and shadowed them until they turned around.
This incident demonstrates why it is vitally important for the Canadian Armed Forces to have the best technology and equipment available. This is true whether we are asserting our Arctic sovereignty, fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan or aiding reconstruction efforts in Haiti.
For too long, the Canadian Armed Forces suffered under Liberal budget cuts and the Liberal failure to adequately equip our men and women in uniform -- a shameful period known as the "Decade of Darkness."
Sadly, Mr. Igantieff is planning to take Canada's Armed Forces back to this disgraceful period by cancelling our government's purchase of the F-35 Next Generation Joint Strike Fighter.
Perhaps because he wasn't in Canada at the time, Mr. Ignatieff is unaware of how past Liberal governments gutted our military.More proof that Michael Ignatieff isn't in it for Canadians. He's just in it for himself.