By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen
Canada will provide up to 25 personnel over the next five years to NATO’s Airborne Warning and Control System program, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced at the NATO summit.
In February, the Liberal government announced it was reversing a 2011 decision by the previous Conservative government that saw Canada withdraw from NATO’s AWACS program.
The Conservative government decided at that time to end participation in the airborne early warning plane program to save money. Canada’s NATO allies were surprised and angered about the pullout. The Royal Canadian Air Force warned at the time that the decision could put overseas operations at risk.
Over the last several years, however, NATO has significantly increased the use of its AWACS, including in areas like Central and Eastern Europe where Canada is leading a multinational NATO battlegroup based in Latvia.
The original shutdown of Canada’s contribution to NATO’s AWACS saved about $50 million a year, according to the records obtained under the Access to Information law by Defence Watch.
Canada will also contribute to the new NATO Command Structure and support the new United States Readiness Initiative. Canada is now a member of the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats and will join the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.
In addition, Canada will extend its contribution to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence through Operation REASSURANCE for another four years and increase the number of personnel taking part in this mission in Latvia from 455 to 540, Trudeau said.