“If you sweat, you die.”— Maj. Gen. Brian EiflerAmerica is getting ready for war in the high Arctic.We are not.When temperatures hit 50 below, nothing works.Uninsulated batteries drain, table screens crack, hydraulics freeze. People freeze.Even howitzers are affected.A soldier’s own perspiration turns against them, the moisture soaking their clothes and letting in the killing cold.“If you sweat, you die,” said Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, commander of the Army’s year-old 'Arctic Angels' division told Breaking Defence at AUSA 2023. “That’s the environment we’re talking about … the harshest environment on the planet.”The Alaska-based 11th Airborne Division, reactivated last year but tracing its lineage to World War II, is preparing for conflict in the utmost north.To get that done, they are exploring technologies and equipment that aren’t standard issue. That’s everything from insulated stretchers to keep the wounded from freezing to death to the service’s first new design for skis in 50 years, the report said.“Just about everything in the Arctic is bespoke,” said the division’s senior NCO, Command Sergeant Major Vern Daley, showing off the new skis as he and Eifler addressed the media last week in Washington, DC.As part of the service’s 2021 Arctic Strategy, the 11th were reformed into a single division focused on the Arctic Circle, where the Pentagon and allies are seeing a creeping Russian and Chinese threat.One that Canada has largely ignored. Bizarrely, the Canadian delegation had “climate change experts” at AUSA 2023, the biggest arms show in North America.To say we have missed the boat would be an understatement.“I don’t think, [when] it’s 65 below, you’re going to do anything other than try to stay warm — and whoever can stay the warmest, wins,” said Maj. Gen. Eifler. “[But at] maybe 30 below you can fight.”“If you have your cellphone with you and you take it out for two minutes, it’ll go from 100 percent [charged] to zero,” Eifler said.“If we want to use a tablet or something like that to do fires or planning or anything like that and it’s exposed to that temperature, it’s gone. … Just the ambient air hitting it will crack everything.”That’s a big problem for an Army increasingly invested in high-tech electronics, many of them bought 'off the shelf' and not hardened for extreme conditions.“The Army likes to give everybody the same communications gear,” Eifler said. “That doesn’t work in the Arctic.”The far north is also out of range for most communications and surveillance satellites, which orbit around the equator. Only a few satcom companies offer coverage in the Arctic, among them, Eifler said, Iridium and Starlink.Starlink owner Elon Musk, who also owns electric auto-maker Tesla, has even visited the command to explore customized technologies. “We’ve had … Elon Musk and his team up there trying to figure out battery operated cars and insulated cars.”The weather’s even a problem for military-hardened, purely mechanical systems such as the hydraulics on the M777 howitzer, which is prized by the infantry.But it is also hard to dig out the deep snow so artillery units can emplace their weapons in stable firing positions.The US military’s 8×8 Stryker armored vehicles proved so problematic in the cold, the division got rid of them and converted the brigade to foot troops, with the prospect of being trained for heliborne air assault operations.The unit is also checking out the Army’s new BAE-built Cold-weather All-Terrain Vehicle, the CATV.Alaska is highly mountainous, the polar ice uneven and prone to melting, so in such difficult terrain many operations must be conducted on foot. That puts a premium on individual kit, such as the new skis or the recently fielded winter clothing, formally the Cold Temperature & Arctic Protection System.The Army’s Soldier Systems Center has even developed special medical supplies, such as an insulated sleeping bag/stretcher combination for evacuating casualties whose unstable body temperatures put them at even greater risk of hypothermia.Ironically, the division has garnered Arctic experience from the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as Finland, Norway and Sweden.What is Canada doing? Our loquacious prime minister is preparing to gut the military by cutting billions to support his socialist, green policies (none of which are working, by the way).And make no mistake, the Russian threat from the north is real.According to the Centre for Strategic & International studies, aside from a strong defensive posture, Russia also has offensive goals.First, it seeks to use the Arctic as a staging ground for power projection, especially into the North Atlantic Ocean via the Greenland-Iceland-UK (GIUK) Gap.Second, it may consider hybrid activities to intimidate or coerce European Arctic countries.Finally, in an unlikely — but not unthinkable — wider NATO-Russia conflict, having escalated to a war, one can imagine Moscow risking a limited incursion into Norway or Finland and possibly even Canada.This scenario resembles Cold War-era fears — any high value assets would be attractive targets for long-range precision strikes, including NORAD facilities.Gen. Wayne Eyre, the chief of the defence staff, told the House of Commons defence committee last fall that Canada’s “tenuous hold” in the Arctic could be challenged by both Russia and China, the CBC reported."Right now, today, we don't see a clear and present threat to our sovereignty, not today, not this week, not next week, not next year," Eyre said."However, in the decades to come, that threat, that tenuous hold that we have on our sovereignty, at the extremities of this nation, is going to come under increasing challenge."Data from existing studies indicate the Arctic currently provides about US$281 billion per year in terms of food, mineral extraction, oil production, tourism, hunting, existence values and climate regulation.And, as the saying goes, to the victor goes the spoils — Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States are the primary nations competing for control of the Arctic's resources.Canada — the weakest link on the Arctic front — has promised $4.9 billion over the next six years to modernize continental defence, the CBC reported.Promised. If it delivers, I will be shocked.The figure represents Canada's share of the cost of overhauling the decades-old joint bi-national air defence command, originally designed to detect Soviet bombers.The United States covers about 60% of the bill for NORAD.But are we doing enough and fast enough?Experts say NORAD's current surveillance system is not built to track cruise missiles — weapons fired from submarines or from outside of North America. It's also not set up to deal with hypersonic missiles.Both weapons have been used in Ukraine.The Liberal government has also stood firm on its prohibition on participating in the U.S. ballistic missile system (BMD), maintaining the current policy of non-involvement. A holdover from the Diefenbaker days.Russia, meanwhile has bulked up its Arctic presence, alarming NATO officials.According to CNN, Russia has continued expanding its military bases in the Arctic region despite significant losses in its war on Ukraine.Satellite pictures, obtained by CNN from Maxar Technologies, show a series of Russian radar bases and runways undergoing improvements.The images show slow but continued progress of fortifying and expanding an area analysts say is of vital importance to Russia’s defensive strategy, at a time of great strain on Moscow’s resources.NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told CNN: “The shortest way from Russia to North America is over the Arctic North Pole. So the strategic importance of these areas has not changed because of the war in Ukraine.”Russia is also “testing novel weapons in the Arctic and the high north,” he said.One of Russia’s key objectives in the Arctic remains “the development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as a competitive national transport artery.”With climate change causing the ice to recede, international shipping is making increasing use of the Northern Sea Route — also called the Polar Silk Road — which follows Russia’s coast.Ships sailing through the NSR need Moscow’s permission and an escort from Russia’s icebreaker fleet, the largest in the world. Russia has even launched advanced nuclear-powered Arktika-class icebreakers.For Beijing, investing in Russian sea ports will help with access to the Northern Sea Route, sources told VOA News. China has no Arctic coastline but has called itself a “Near-Arctic Power.”The Canadian Armed Forces maintains a year-round presence in the Arctic with some 300 full-time military personnel, alongside 1,700 Canadian Rangers.Compare that to six Russian six bases, 14 airfields, 16 deep-water ports, and 14 icebreakers in full operation.We are out-manned and out-gunned. We wouldn’t stand a chance in hell.Perhaps it’s time we wake up to this burgeoning and real threat and stop depending on the Americans for our safety.