By: Zane Schwartz, National Post
Canada will send troops to the Black Sea region to combat Russian influence there, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced Wednesday.
“I’m pleased to confirm that several nations indicated their willingness to contribute to our presence in the Black Sea region, on land, at sea and in the air,” said Stoltenberg, adding that the countries involved include: “Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and the United States.”
The deployment is in addition to the troops Canada has already committed to Operation Reassurance in Eastern Europe.
Department of National Defence spokesperson Evan Koronewski confirmed the Black Sea deployment. It will include CF-18s stationed in Romania and a RCN frigate in the Black Sea.
Stoltenberg said he intends to confirm the plans by the next meeting of NATO defence ministers in February.
Stoltenberg also announced a land brigade in Romania, but Canada will not be part of that, Jordan Owens, press secretary of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, said Thursday.
Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey are among the countries that border the
Black Sea. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described it as “almost a Russian lake” as a result of the Russian military presence there.
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Canada has 220 armed forces members deployed in Poland as well as about 250 aboard HMCS Charlottetown as part a maritime task force formed by NATO. HMCS Charlottetown could deploy to the Black Sea or, if its rotation is up by the time the order to move comes, the frigate replacing it will go.
Rona Ambrose, the interim Conservative leader, criticized Justin Trudeau’s government this week for its failure to disclose basic facts about Canadian troops fighting ISIL.
Stoltenberg’s announcement comes on the heels of rising tensions between Russia and NATO following the breakdown of a ceasefire on Oct. 3 brokered by the two countries in Syria.
For Operation Reassurance, about 4,000 soldiers divided into four battalions will deploy in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Canada is leading the battalion based in Latvia.
Stoltenberg announced that Albania, Italy, Poland, and Slovenia would contribute to the Latvia battalion.