Canada confirms troop deployment in Latvia

A battle group of Canadian soldiers will soon be deployed to Latvia to provide a credible deterrence against further Russian expansionism in eastern Europe, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told NATO leaders Friday.

In addition, Canada will provide six CF-18 fighter jets for air policing duties over the Baltic states and deploy a navy frigate as part of NATO's standing task force.

"Canada is playing a strong, constructive role in the world," Trudeau said in a written statement.

Latvian institution and president Raimonds Vējonis have already expressed their pleasure over Canada's decision.

However Vējonis stressed that Latvia has its own obligations in bolstering the country's defense.

"We are investing into Latvian defense and strengthening our defense capabilities, however it's very important that there's unanimous support for our region within the alliance," said Vējonis.

"We cannot fall back from the goal of reaching 2% of GDP for defense [spending] by 2018," said the President of Latvia.

Latvia's Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis followed suit in welcoming the decision.

Bergmanis stressed that Canada was one of the first countries that, alongside the United States, sent a ground force to Europe together with six CF-18 fighter jets following Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

"The decisions in the NATO summit will not cancel our obligations.

Quite the opposite - in order to have allies stand for our safety, we have to continue our work on increasing defense spending, improving the fight capabilities of the National Armed Forces and the support capabilities as a receiving country, as well as developing infrastructure - including military training infrastructure - so that we can we receive the allies," said Bergmanis.

The Latvian Foreign Ministry reports that Canada's Foreign Ministry will be visiting Latvia on Monday following the NATO summit in Warsaw.

"It's a very important step by Canada in order to strengthen security in Latvia and the Baltics," Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs told Latvian Radio Friday, saying that it testifies to that Canada takes NATO's Article Five very seriously. 

Fear over Baltic safety erupted after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and Russia-backed separatists started taking territory in Eastern Ukraine.

It's estimated that about 10,000 have lost their lives in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. 

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