Canada will defend «every inch» of Baltic states

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Canadian troops who will form the backbone of a significant NATO reinforcement in Latvia will stay for as long as necessary to deter "troublemaker" Russia, Canadian foreign minister Stephane Dion said in Riga Monday.  

Canada is due to send around 450 personnel to Latvia in early 2017 as part of a NATO decision to bolster its eastern border.

At the same time the UK will send a battalion to Estonia, while Germany will send troops to Lithuania in an effort to make Russia think twice before messing with the Baltic states.

Fresh from the Warsaw Summit of July 8-9 at which the fresh troop commitments were made, Dion had talks with Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics then told reporters Canada's commitment to the security of the region could not be doubted - also pointing out that like Latvia, Canada is a neighbor of Russia. 

“Canada affirms here in Latvia that we are answering the call,” Dion said.

“A neighboring country chooses to throw its weight around and cause trouble and international instability. Latvia and Canada, together with our NATO allies, answer the call both for strong deterrence and strong dialogue,” he said.

“We will stay strong as long as the relationship has not been changed for something positive – as long as Russia is a troublemaker in the region we need to be strong together and Canada will be part of it.”

Dion also stressed Canada's “unwavering friendship” with Ukraine which he said had been “confronted directly with aggression from our shared neighbour.”

As he spoke in Riga, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau was in Kyiv signing a trade deal with Ukraine.

Dion said that as the so-called “framework” nation sending the largest contingent of troops to Latvia, they would need to have a broad range of combat skills.

He did not rule out dialogue with Russia but said it had to be underpinned by a clear commitment to "defend every square inch of the NATO alliance" if necessary.

Canada's troops would include a mechanized infantry company as well as logistics and headquarters staff, he said.

Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics welcomed the Canadian contingent, noting that Russia had been building up its own military presence close to the borders of the Baltic states for a decade.

Russia's unofficial incursion in Ukraine had been "a turning point for NATO and the main reason for strengthening the alliance's eastern flank"  Rinkevics said.

Consequently the decision to reinforce the Baltics was "logical" he added, explaining that increased numbers of Russian troops near the border justified a "deterrence measure" response from NATO.

The official communique issued at the end of the Warsaw summit described similar reasoning:

"We have decided to establish an enhanced forward presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to unambiguously demonstrate, as part of our overall posture, Allies’ solidarity, determination, and ability to act by triggering an immediate Allied response to any aggression. 

"Beginning in early 2017, enhanced forward presence will comprise multinational forces provided by framework nations and other contributing Allies on a voluntary, sustainable, and rotational basis. 

"They will be based on four battalion-sized battlegroups that can operate in concert with national forces, present at all times in these countries, underpinned by a viable reinforcement strategy.  We welcome the offers of Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States to serve as framework nations for the robust multinational presence in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland respectively."

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