Thursday, June 25, 2015

1,650 CAF members heading to Europe

Defence Minister Jason Kenney announced yesterday that Canada will partake in the largest NATO exercise in Europe since the end of the Cold War in 1991.

Operation TRIDENT JUNCTURE-15 will be held in late September to early November in Spain, Portugal, and Italy; and will include more than 25,000 troops from NATO members. Canada will be sending a contingent of 1,650 troops, including elements of the RCAF, RCN, and Land elements, including Special Forces.

The Conservative government, despite not spending the NATO requested 2% of GDP on defence has been a large supporter of NATO's response to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. Canada is still deciding on how many members (if any) of the CAF it will contribute to the NATO Rapid Reaction Force. However, Ottawa officially offered the RCAF spy planes, tanker aircraft and strategic lift capabilities to the Rapid Reaction Force, which is set to triple in size from the current 13,000 members.

Two weeks ago, the CAF announced that it would provide staff officers to work at the Rapid Reaction Force command centres in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania.

Despite Canada's slow decision making process in sending troops to be part of the reaction force, Canada has had 200 infantry rotating through Eastern Europe since the summer of 2014, and according to DND, plans for the continued rotation is set for as far as March 2016.

Opponents are saying that Canada is planning on establishing a permanent presence in Europe, much like it did between 1946 and 1991 in Germany. However, DND says no permanent planning is in the process, as it is not cost-effective and in most cases too expensive.