NATO reinforcements to arrive early 2017

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The Canadian-led multinational battalion earmarked for deployment to Latvia will include heavy weaponry, and the first soldiers are expected to arrive in Latvia at the beginning of next year, Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis told the LETA news agency September 7.

Overall there will be a large contingent of allied forces deployed to Latvia, as there will also be soldiers stationed here which are not a part of this battalion, 

He said that the work taking place within the Latvian defense sector is very active at the moment in anticipation of the arrival, as infrastructure projects are being developed and other important matters are being solved.

''Visits and consultations are ongoing. The commander of the Canadian armed forces will arrive in Latvia next week. Cooperation is very active at the moment, but there are still some complicated matters which must be dealt with. Our discussions are open and the Canadian side is very understanding,'' the minister explained.

He said that infrastructure at the Adazi military base and the Lielvarde air base are being constructed and modernized at at a fast pace - barracks are being constructed, as well as warehouses and other infrastructure.

Asked whether Latvia will be able to complete these infrastructure project by the spring, when the battalion is expected to arrive in Latvia, the minister replied that Latvia's allies are very understanding and are prepared to live in tents for a period until everything is complete. He said that not only Latvian funds are being invested in these infrastructure funds, but also financing from allies as well.

The minister confirmed that the battalion will also include heavy weaponry. It has not yet been decided what kind of heavy weaponry will be stationed in Latvia, but added that this weaponry will be an excellent opportunity for Latvian soldiers to increase their capabilities.

He also said that the battalion will be made up of over 1,000 soldiers. ''The battalion will be made up of over 1,000 soldiers, as they will also have service crews with them,'' Bergmanis pointed out, adding that the total number of soldiers will be greater taking into account the deployment of U.S. troops already on the ground here.

''The NATO battalion and the rotating contingent of U.S. soldiers in Latvia are completely separate from one another. Furthermore, a contingent of soldiers from one of the Visegrad countries will be in Latvia on a rotational basis as well from next year. The overall number of allied soldiers will be quite large,'' Bergmanis said.

Bergmanis hopes that Spain, Slovenia, Italy and Poland will be sending its soldiers to Latvia, as representatives from these countries had recently arrived in Latvia for consultations. ''It is also possible that other allied members will send their soldiers to be a part of this battalion,'' the minister emphasized.

Bergmanis believes that the first soldiers will arrive at the beginning of next year to carry out preparatory work, while the rest of the battalion's soldiers will gradually begin to arrive in the coming weeks.

The Defense Ministry previously stated that the specific countries which will be a part of the Canada-led battalion in Latvia will be known after a meeting of NATO defense ministers in October.

The significant strengthening of the NATO presence in the Baltic states comes as a direct result of Russia's overt and covert military and hybrid actions in Ukraine.

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