Canada to send 450 troops to Latvia

Canada will lead a multi-national battalion in Latvia as NATO seeks to bolster forces in the Baltics (AFP Photo/Shah Marai)
Canada will lead a multi-national battalion in Latvia as NATO seeks to bolster forces in the Baltics (AFP Photo/Shah Marai)

Riga (AFP) - Canada will send more than 450 troops to Latvia from around May 2017 as part of NATO's efforts to reinforce its presence in the Baltics in the face of a resurgent Russia.

The Western defence alliance had in July endorsed the deployment of four battalions of around 1,000 troops each in Poland and the Baltic states, the largest reinforcement of its eastern flank since the Cold War.

Senior Canadian military commander General Jonathan H. Vance confirmed late Thursday that 455 troops would be deployed, wrapping up a two-day inspection of the Adazi military base just outside Latvia's capital Riga .

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"I think that the soldiers will start to arrive next spring, around May, and we plan to be fully deployed by early autumn," Vance told reporters.

"At the moment I cannot say what other forces will come too, but the result will be a substantial battle group of about 1,000 soldiers, who will complement the Latvian army."

Canada will lead the multi-national battalion in Latvia, while Britain will lead a battalion in Estonia, Germany in Lithuania and the US in Poland.

Military representatives from Canada, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Spain arrived to inspect Latvian facilities earlier this month. While these are expected to contribute the remainder of the battalion, no final decision on the composition of the force has been made.

Fears that Russia could attempt an attack in the Baltics -- NATO members since 2004 -- surged after Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

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