Canadian troops will not face Russia alone when they begin to arrive in Latvia early next year.
Four countries — Albania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia — have promised to contribute troops and equipment to a Canadian-led NATO force that is being organized in Latvia in response to recent Russian actions in Eastern Europe.
“As Canada takes a leadership role as a NATO framework nation, I look forward to working with our partners from Latvia, Albania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia as we stand together to enhance our collective security,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement.
|CAF Members train with Polish Military members in a recent exercise during OP REASSURANCE in Poland. (CAF/Flickr)|
Germany, the United States and Britain are leading similar forces in Lithuania, Poland and Estonia, respectively.
Eastern Europe allies had asked NATO to bolster its footprint in the region as a deterrent against Russia trying to destabilize them in the same way it did in Ukraine — with cyberattacks and by crossing into their territory and inciting Russian speakers within their borders.
Russia has denied any such intentions, and instead accused NATO of instigating the current standoff by expanding into former Soviet territory and trying to undermine its sphere of influence. It has also warned against any military build-up on its borders.
Canada will provide 450 troops as well as light armoured vehicles and other military equipment to the force; Italy has said it will send 140 soldiers.
It wasn’t immediately clear what the other countries will contribute, though media reports have indicated the Polish contribution will include tanks.
The Canadians will form the “nucleus” of the battle group, which will be based at the Adazi military base, about half an hour northeast of the capital Riga.
The first troops will arrive in the spring, but the bulk won’t touch down until fall. They will stay six months before being replaced by another group of Canadians.
Officials have said the four battle groups are intended to make Russia think twice before taking any aggressive action. But they are also being kept small to prevent any provocation or escalation in tensions between Russia and NATO.