Over the next week, approximately 450 Canadian soldiers are returning from Latvia, as part of a NATO mission Operation REASSURANCE where Canada is leading a battle group in Latvia.
“Op REASSURANCE began in Poland and transitioned to Latvia last year and what it is, is Canada’s participation in the enhanced forward presence battle groups that had been established across the Baltics,” said Captain Dan Mazurek, Public Affairs Officer.
After Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, NATO voted unanimously that there needed to be a response to the conflict. Battle groups were planted in the Baltics to deter Russian aggression.
“The idea was not to escalate conflict, was not to provoke Russian Forces. The idea was that would be enough of a deterrence to give Russia pause before invading other countries,” said Capt. Mazurek.
Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, and Poland each have their own established battle group, run by NATO nations. In Lithuania it’s Germany, in Estonia, it’s the UK, the United States is leading the Polish, and Canada is the leading nation in Latvia.
“That means we contribute soldiers, there’s a mechanized infantry battalion of Canadian soldiers on the ground, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s also a leadership role, command and controls, it’s a Canadian led headquarters,” said Capt. Mazurek. “Although the headquarters, even though it’s Canadian led, it’s made up of representatives of all the battle groups. It is very multinational.”
Capt. Mazurek noted this mission is an important one for Canada in term of establishing that leadership role. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants for Canada to continue that leadership role.
In Riga, Latvia, Prime Minister Trudeau announced an extension of Canada’s role in Latvia, from 2019 to March 2023 and increased the number of soldiers from 455 to 540.