Trudeau extends, expands Latvia peacekeeping mission
Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, July 10, 2018 7:23AM EDT
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is extending its NATO commitment in Latvia by another four years to March 2023 and will boost the number of troops in the country to 540 from the current 455 in a show of ongoing solidarity with the alliance.
Trudeau made the announcement Tuesday in Riga following a meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis.
Canada is part of a NATO battle group in Latvia, which was established as the alliance's response to Russia's surprise annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its invasion of eastern Ukraine.
The Canadian-led group is one of four in the region, and includes troops from seven NATO allies. Germany leads a similar force in Lithuania, Britain leads one in Estonia and the U.S. leads in Poland.
Before leaving Canada on Monday, Trudeau spoke to NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg by telephone to stress the "importance of the alliance's unity and solidarity on defence and security issues."
Trudeau's announcement comes a day ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels, where the stage is set for another confrontation between world leaders and Donald Trump, as Canada and other NATO allies prepare to counter the U.S. president's complaint that they aren't carrying their fair share of the burden of being part of the military alliance.
Trudeau also met in Riga Tuesday with Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis.
He also laid flowers at the monument of freedom and took part in a number of activities at a military base in Adazi. Trudeau also attended a candlelight vigil at a Latvian memorial to fallen soldiers, a vehicle display by multinational troops and spoke to Canadian military personnel.