Canada to Send 450 Troops to Latvia for NATO Mission against Russia

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday July 8th that the state will be deploying 450 troops to Latvia as a part of a NATO mission in response to the Russian invasion of three bordering Baltic NATO nations, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The three states have requested NATO to have a strong presence within their nations.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Polish officials want the NATO force to be based near the Suwalki Gap, the border between the Baltic States and their allies.”

The NATO leaders’ summit was held in Warsaw, Poland on July 8th, where Canada announced it would take command of a multinational force in Latvia, which also includes a thousand American troops, in order to strengthen the military presence in the Baltic region. Estonia and Lithuania already hold NATO military bases. Poland is also one of the states soon to hold NATO troops, as it will be home for the headquarters for the US Brigade.

According to an article published by The Globe and Mail, “[the] Canadians will form the “nucleus” of a battle group in Latvia…that with the addition of forces from other allies, is expected to grow to about 1,000 troops. Germany, the United States and Britain are leading similar forces in Lithuania, Poland and Estonia.”

The combined efforts of the NATO states will increase the number of Canadian military personnel in Eastern Europe to roughly 800, which will be “Canada’s largest sustained military deployment in the continent in over a decade.”

Canadian troops are expected to arrive in Latvia early 2017, with no end date provided for the mission.

Latvia’s foreign affairs minister, Edgars Rinkevics, “predicted an extended stay in his country for the Canadians…[stating in an interview with the Canadian Press]: ‘My answer on how long is a very simple one: As long as necessary.’”

This issue is heavily being compared to the Cold War, with defence ministers assuring that this will not be a repeat of last century’s event. However, the NATO chief stated Russia is being assertive in terms of using military force, which is why the troop deployment in Eastern Europe is critical. The Globe and Mail supported the notion of Russia being successful with military force by providing the examples of the Russian annexation of Crimea and the Ukrainian separatist support.

“Eastern Europe allies had been asking NATO to bolster its presence in the region as a deterrent against Russia trying to destabilize them in the same way it did in Ukraine. That includes crossing into their territory, inciting Russian speakers within their borders and cyber attacks. Russia has denied any such intentions, and instead has 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.”

During the summit in Warsaw, Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia is willing to cooperate with NATO, despite the rocky relationship between the two. Peskov stated: “[Russia] has always been open for dialogue with NATO, especially to fight what it sees as a genuine threat [terrorism]…Russia is not looking (for an enemy) but it actually sees it happening…When NATO soldiers march along our border and NATO jets fly by, it’s not us who are moving closer to the NATO borders.”

Another issue rising between NATO and Russia is the missile defense system. According to the The Wall Street Journal, NATO “is set to take formal control on Friday of a missile defense radar in Turkey and the American missile interceptors in Romania. The moves will allow the alliance to declare initial operational capability for the missile defense system.”

Russia believes the system is aimed towards them; however, NATO is assuring it does not pose a threat to the Russian nuclear deterrent. Russia is dismissing this claim, and requesting NATO to formally agree on the limits of the system, which the organization is refusing to do.

Neelam Champaneri