Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Bill Blair, announces measures to strengthen Canada’s military presence in Latvia.
CAF Press Release, Riga, 15 December 2023: Today, the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, accompanied by General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff, are visiting Latvia – home to Canada’s largest foreign military deployment. Minister Blair and General Eyre are meeting with Canadian Armed Forces members deployed as part of the Canadian-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Group in Latvia, to thank them for their ongoing contributions to the security of Canada and its NATO Allies.
Minister Blair highlighted that Canada is more than doubling its military presence on Operation REASSURANCE – from about 1,000 troops currently to up to 2,200 persistently deployed troops by 2026, as Canada committed in the July 2023 Roadmap on Scaling the eFP Latvia Battle Group to Brigade. Minister Blair announced several measures to strengthen Canada’s military presence in Latvia, bolstering the security of NATO’s eastern flank:
- Starting in summer 2024, Canada will deploy four Griffon helicopters to the eFP Battle Group and periodically deploy Chinooks as well, starting fall 2025. This is the first time that Canada has persistently deployed tactical aviation capabilities to Europe since operations in Bosnia and Kosovo in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
- Canada has finalised the procurement of Portable Anti-Armour Missile Systems for our forces in Latvia, including missiles, simulators, and associated supports. These modern anti-tank weapons will better equip our soldiers to confront threats from our adversaries’ main battle tanks, thus strengthening NATO’s deterrence posture. These weapons are being procured on an urgent basis after having been designated an Urgent Operational Requirement. Canada has awarded the Portable Anti ‘X’ Missile (PAXM) on behalf of the Department of National Defence to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems for $32.2M USD. The first of these systems is expected to arrive by mid-2024.
- For the first time ever, Canada has deployed Medium Range Radar capabilities. The Medium Range Radar is the first building block of the air defence capability for the Multinational Brigade. It will provide aerial surveillance for the brigade, as well as quickly and accurately identify air vehicles and munitions. Canada continues to work towards the acquisition of an air defence system for the NATO Battle Group in Latvia, which has also been designated an Urgent Operational Requirement, as we announced in March 2023.
- Minister Blair also noted that a Canadian Army Tank Squadron of 15 Leopard 2A4M tanks, along with supporting personnel and equipment announced in July 2023, recently arrived in Latvia as part of Operation REASSURANCE. The full complement of approximately 130 personnel should be in place by spring 2024. This deployment will significantly boost the eFP Battle Group’s military capabilities and demonstrates Canada’s commitment to implementing the Canada-Latvia Joint Declaration of June 2022.
The Minister further announced a total investment of more than $15 million CAD in infrastructure needed to scale up the current battle group to a brigade. This total investment is part of the $2.6 billion announced by the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, in July 2023. This includes:
- 2.3 million euros for storage for Canada’s main battle tanks at Camp Ādaži;
- 3.1 million euros to improve living conditions at the camp; and
- 4 million euros for accommodations and other supports at Ceri—the future headquarters of the multi-national brigade.
- over 1 million euros to expand real-life support and workspace at Camp Ādaži and Ceri.
These measures demonstrate Canada’s steadfast commitment to strengthening NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, including by doubling our military presence in Latvia, and scaling up to a brigade. Our investments in infrastructure and capabilities will help strengthen our mission significantly and ensure that our armed forces are better able and ready to defend NATO’s eastern flank. As a founding member of NATO, Canada is steadfastly committed to collective defence.
“Through our deployment in Latvia – the largest current Canadian military deployment abroad – Canada is making a meaningful contribution to Euro-Atlantic security. The additional measures that I announced today will significantly increase the capabilities of the Canadian-led, multinational battle group in Latvia, further boosting NATO’s defence and deterrence posture. To all Canadian Armed Forces personnel deployed in Latvia: I thank you for your hard work to protect Canada and defend democracy, freedom, and the rules-based international order.” The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence
- Canada enjoys excellent relations with Latvia. Canada was the first G7 country to recognise the restoration of Latvia’s independence in 1991, and one of the first countries to ratify Latvia’s accession to NATO in 2004.
- NATO is a cornerstone of Canada’s international security policy. Canada believes in and steadfastly supports NATO’s principle of collective defence and is providing direct support to NATO missions and operations.
- Since 2017, Canada has served as Framework Nation for NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in Latvia, leading a multinational battle group composed of ten nations: Albania, Canada, Czechia, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.
- As Framework Nation, Canada is responsible for coordinating with Latvia and the contributing nations to help set the tone, pace, and vision for the eFP, and providing support to facilitate integration as a single entity.
- Canada contributes the battle group leadership, command and control elements, a mechanised infantry company, an artillery battery, a combat support company, an electronic warfare troop, and a combat service support company.