Canada to send 1,000 troops to E. Europe to boost NATO presence at Russia’s doorstep

© Kacper Pempel
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reportedly pledged to send 1,000 troops to Latvia to deter Russia shortly after the US President urged Canada to boost its involvement in NATO.

The soldiers are to join NATO high-readiness brigade in Eastern Europe, according to Canadian media reports.

“As a responsible partner in the world, Canada stands side by side with its NATO Allies working to deter aggression and assure peace and stability in Europe,” Canada’s Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement Thursday. “I know our men and women in uniform will represent the best that Canada has to offer.”

Trudeau is expected to make a formal announcement in the next couple of days, before the PM departs for a NATO meeting in Warsaw, Poland next week. During his trip, Trudeau will also likely visit Ukraine. 

Canada’s military commitment comes less than 24 hours after Obama spoke at the Canadian Parliament on Wednesday, urging politicians that “NATO needs more Canada … Because the Canadian Armed Forces are really good.”

“As your ally and as your friend, let me say that we’ll be more secure when every NATO member including Canada contributes its full share to our common security,” Obama told Parliament.

Canada is behind on its contributions to NATO, as it spends less than one per cent of its GDP on defense, despite all NATO countries spending at least two per cent of GDP.

READ MORE: NATO boosts build-up in E. Europe, confirms deployment of four multinational battalions

During his speech, Obama also criticized alleged Russian involvement in Ukraine’s crisis.

“When nations violate international rules and norms, such as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the United States and Canada stand united, along with our allies, in defense of our collective security.”

Russia has been facing increasingly aggressive rhetoric from NATO, as the military alliance pursues military build-up in Eastern Europe.

After Crimea’s re-unification with Russia in 2014, the bloc started deployment of troops, equipment and infrastructure to Poland and Baltic countries, arguing that it would protect the region from alleged “Russian aggression.”

In last week’s speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russian will adopt adequate measures to counter NATO's aggression. Putin also called for creation of an international security system open to all countries.

"Russia is ready to discuss this extremely important issue," he said, adding that such proposals have been so far left unanswered by Western countries.

At the upcoming Warsaw summit in July, NATO leaders are expected to green-light deployment of four battalions of up to 800 troops each to the Baltic States and Poland, along with intensifying the scale and pace of multinational military exercises. Recent live-fire drills, Anakonda 2016, Saber Strike and BALTOPS, involved thousands of troops and hundreds of combat vehicles to simulate large-scale operations in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

In the meantime, Moscow has been saying that NATO’s build-up and its hostile rhetoric toward Russia aren’t improving security and stability in Europe, but instead are triggering reciprocal measures.

READ MORE: Putin: Russia will respond to 'aggressive NATO rhetoric’

In its most recent comments, the Russian Defense Ministry said that NATO activity on Russian borders “doubled,” provoking Moscow’s response. 

“Now NATO and the US have deployed about 1,200 pieces of military equipment, including 30 combat jets, as well as more than 1,000 soldiers on the territories of the Eastern European countries on a rotational basis. The US navy ships as well as military vessels of other NATO members regularly enter the Baltic and Black Seas,” Shoigu said Wednesday.