Canada's Trudeau extends Latvia mission by 4 years

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Latvia July 10.

During a short busy visit, Trudeau will meet Prime Minister Maris Kučinskis for talks ahead of an important NATO summit in Brussels July 11-12 and he will also visit Canadian troops stationed at Camp Ādaži, just outside Rīga, where they head up NATO's enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battalion.

The Latvian cabinet office posted a video online of Trudeau's arrival at the main government building in Rīga, which showed Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan also among the prime ministerial entourage.

A press conference took place Tuesday morning which can be watched live at the webpage of the Latvian government.

Trudeau told reporters in a mixture of English and French: "These are uncertain times and I assured the Prime Minister Canada will continue to step up, as we always do. We remain unwavering in our support for security in the Baltic region.

"I am happy to announce today that Canada is extending our contribution... here in Latvia. I want to be clear: we are absolutely committed to the protection of our allies and global peace and security."

"Our mission's current mandate ends in 2019. This announcement today extends our commitment for four more years."

The mission will also have a CF-18 fighter presence, he said, as well as a cyber dimension in line with Canada's defense policy.

"Our extend commitment to the NATO mission in Latvia sends a clear message that Canada will always play its part," Trudeau said.

He also paid tribute to the 28,000 strong Latvian community in Canada, which he said enriched Canadian society.

Trudeau also batted away questions about Canada's failure to meet the NATO 2% of GDP spending target, saying the 2% rule was a fairly "primitive" measure and that ongoing modernization and spending increases in the Canadian armed forces were designed to give it the necessary global reach and flexibility into the future. 

Kučinskis said: "Despite the large distance separating our countries, cooperation between us is a lot better than some countries which are a lot closer" and described the extended mission of Canadian troops as "a great present" that would contribute significantly to national security, and for which he thanked his counterpart. 

He also noted national airline airBaltic's massive purchase of Canada-made Bombardier planes.

At a later meeting between Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis and Trudeau, the Latvian head of state also offered thanks for Canada's fresh commitment to regional security.

"Thank you for the decision of the government of Canada to continue participating in the NATO Battle Group in Latvia until 2023. Canada has extensive experience in operating in northern climatic conditions... that enables it to successfully lead the multinational battlegroup in Latvia. In turn, Canadian soldiers in Latvia can gain experience in co-operation with European allies," said the President.

This story will be updated.

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