RIGA, Latvia—Canada will extend NATO’s military mission in Latvia, which ends next year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
This is good news for many military commanders here.
In an interview before the announcement, a top Canadian soldier told the Star that Canadian soldiers leading a NATO battle group in the country bordering Russia are on the “front of freedom.”
General Wayne Eyre, chief of the defense staff, spoke after chatting with many soldiers about the drills.
He said with the war in Ukraine and fears of Russian expansionism, the work of the Canadian army had taken on new meaning.
“They see a new purpose and why they are here. This is the front line of freedom.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday 10 more Russians would be sanctioned by Canada based on advice provided by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main rival. Trudeau, in London for meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, said the unified economic sanctions against Russia were meant to punish Putin and his supporters. (Canadian Press)
“Our Latvian friends are very happy to have us here. Everyone wants more Canadians,” Eyre added.
Eyre stood in a sandy, undulating field where NATO troops briefly paused for a visit by Trudeau and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg along with the prime minister and president of Latvia, and the prime minister of Spain. Canada and Spain are among the 10 countries participating in the NATO deployment in Latvia.
Trudeau announced that Canada would extend its mission here indefinitely, a year before it was set to expire, at a news conference at a large Latvian military base where security was tight but the VIP visit that day had a relaxed, challenging atmosphere.
The mission is known as Operation Reassurance.
Eyre added that training Canadians with multinational forces also gained valuable experience.
“So the more experience we have, how to integrate multinational teams, how to build those teams, how to work with those teams —(it was) an amazing experience,” he said.
Trudeau assured Baltic leaders who feared Russian aggression in Ukraine would spread to their countries that Canada and other NATO allies would stand up for them.
Trudeau met with Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kari in Riga in the prime minister’s office.
As the cameras roll ahead of their private conversation, Kari says that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “instead of pushing a wedge between Europe and North America, pushing a wedge between NATO partners … is the opposite,” and that there has been “a commonality of mind and men and women.”
Trudeau echoed that assessment, saying, “This is a moment for friends and allies to stand together, and that is exactly what we do.
“We’re not just defending territorial integrity… We’re also defending the principles and values that underlie our friendship and society.”
They were then joined virtually by Estonian Prime Minister Katja Kallas and Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida imonyt.
“You are really at the forefront of this challenge with Russia, Trudeau said, underscoring Canadian troops have “been here for several years and will continue to be together … because we believe in a future of peace and shared prosperity for the people and against aggression.” Absolutely unacceptable Russia.”
Trudeau met here Tuesday with Canadian troops and with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a large Latvian dai army base at a critical time as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine. A ceasefire was negotiated and failed, and civilians were attacked.
In Latvia, Canada leads a 10-nation advanced battle group, one of four NATO stands in the Baltics and Poland after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Trudeau said the Baltic states lived “not only with military threats” and the history of Russian occupation but with the daily use of “propaganda and disinformation to try and undermine democracy and your values, something you are currently armed with.” against Ukraine, but is also used very actively in all democracies in the west.”
Trudeau said, “This is not the time for us to back down. This is the time for us to step up. We do that with you, and with our friends.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a similar message in Latvia the day before, and again Tuesday in Estonia where he also met with Kallas, repeating that “the NATO alliance is strong and stands ready to defend every inch of NATO territory.”
On a whirlwind tour of Europe as global leaders try to coordinate an international response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Trudeau has hinted that his government could spend more money on Canada’s military in the upcoming budget.
Canada has flown the NATO flag in Latvia as a bulwark against further Russian attacks in Eastern Europe.
The four NATO battle groups are part of the defense alliance’s display of strength and solidarity with weaker member states after Russia invaded Ukraine and seized the Crimean peninsula in 2014.
Trudeau arrived in the Latvian capital Monday evening after meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Britain
Earlier Monday, facing a seemingly unstoppable war in Ukraine Trudeau said he would see an increase in Canadian defense spending. Recalling world events, he said “there is definitely a reflection to have.”
Canada’s defense spending of 1.4 percent of GDP falls short of the NATO target of 2 percent of GDP.
But the prime minister publicly defended his government’s record in London Monday, at a news conference with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, saying Canada would gradually increase spending over the next decade by 70 percent.
Then Trudeau acknowledged more might be needed.
“We also recognize that contexts are changing rapidly around the world and we need to ensure that women and men have the assurance and our troops have all the necessary equipment to stand strong as we have always had. As a member of NATO, we will continue to see what else we can do.”
The federal government has announced it will add 500 Canadian Troops in Latvia with another 120 troops.
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