Latvia wants Canada to expand and expand its military mission in the midst of tensions with Russia

Ottawa-Latvia believes it will enter the next stage after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this week that Canada will expand and expand its military mission in Ukraine in response to concerns about Russia.

In an interview, Latvian Ambassador to Canada Karlis Eihenbaums said his compatriots were grateful to the 600 Canadian soldiers currently dispatched to the Baltic States to protect themselves from the threat of Russian attacks. ..

The Canadians form the backbone and lead a powerful NATO combat group of 1,000, including soldiers from nine other allies. The combat group is one of four such units throughout Eastern Europe, first established in 2017 as a check against Russia.

However, Eichenbaums said he hopes the Government of Canada will extend its mission beyond the current end date of March 2023, and that Canada and other NATO members will do more.

“Canadians are doing a great job and I hope it continues,” he added, referring to both Russia and its ally Belarus, which borders Latvia.

Much of the current conflict between Russia and NATO has revolved around Moscow’s request that Ukraine never join a transatlantic military alliance that includes 28 countries in Canada, the United States, and Europe.

Nevertheless, the Kremlin also demanded that NATO withdraw all troops from the list, including Latvia, the territory of the member states that once belonged to the Soviet Union. The alliance rejected the request, leading to the fear of a new war in Europe.

It was in this context that Trudeau announced a three-year extension of Canada’s training mission in Ukraine and 60 additional trainers to the current 200-soldier delegation. Canada also provides non-lethal equipment, intelligence and cyber support.

NATO members are also discussing strengthening the existence of the alliance across Eastern Europe as a further deterrent to war, and some allies such as France and Denmark have already announced additional promises last week.

Trudeau spoke with Latvian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday. Krishyanis Kalins thanked Canada for contributing and leading the army to the combat group. According to a summary from Trudeau’s office, Kalins also welcomed Canada’s decision on the Ukrainian mission.

Although the summary did not mention a request for additional troops to Latvia, Eichenbaums said the two had discussed “how to improve” the Latvian combat group. He added that Defense Minister Anita Anand plans to visit the country within a few weeks.

Latvia’s longtime Foreign Minister did not keep his government’s view that NATO needs to increase its presence in the region this week.

“We have reached a point where continued Russian and Belarus military buildup in Europe needs to be addressed by appropriate NATO countermeasures,” Edgars Linkevich wrote on social media. ..

“It’s time to increase the Allied presence on the eastern side of the alliance as a means of both defense and deterrence.”

Current battlegroups are designed for conventional combat, meaning combat with similar troops such as Russia. Canada’s contribution is primarily infantry with armored vehicles, while other partners provide tanks, artillery and other equipment.

Similar battlegroups, led by the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States, were established in Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, respectively.

Some have expressed concern that adding NATO troops to the alliance’s border with Russia could further increase tensions when a cooler temper needs to dominate.

He clearly does not want war, but Eichenbaums argued that the best way to deal with Russia is to show his determination by strengthening the existence of an alliance across his country or region. ..

“Russians are basically like boxing rings,” he said. “They understand when you are strong. And you have to be strong. If we can send an additional (army), this will be appreciated and welcomed.”

Earlier this month, when asked if the government would return Canadian troops from Latvia and Ukraine in the event of a Russian attack, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada was in Latvia and would remove the country and other NATO members from Russia’s invasion. He said he would protect.

Eihenbaums said combat groups were designed to fight as needed, adding: Of course, they go to battle. There is no doubt about all this. “

By Lee Berthiaume

Canadian press