Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged last week that Canada will send troops to Latvia. Mainly to counter Russia’s aggressiveness in the region, the Canadian soldiers will form up the majority of a 1,000-strong multinational battalion capable of acting as a Quick Reaction Force (QRF).
As a matter of fact, Canada, Britain, Germany, and the United States will form up the bulk of the 4,000-strong deployment in Poland and the Baltic States.
Canadians were fooled by United States President Barack Obama’s speech at the Parliament when he called for Canada to bolster its contribution to NATO.
“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,” the president said.”
While the Liberals drastically denied the Canadian Forces of much-needed equipment upgrades, Trudeau’s plan with Russia was to re-engage in open dialogue on the diplomatic side. A few hours after Obama’s speech, Trudeau’s Liberals announced it was looking into sending more troops to the Baltic States; a quick change of thoughts.
However, with a shortage of mission critical equipment, recruitment issues and with a considerable number of soldiers who are desperately looking for some “time at home” to recuperate —according to many friends of mine who arestill serving— from the many years spent in Afghanistan, Trudeau’s engagement toward NATO will add even more pressure on the Canadian Forces’ personnel and broken-down equipment.
During the NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland, Trudeau, along Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance, confirmed that up to six CF-18 fighter aircraft will conduct patrols over allied airspace. Meanwhile, the same government has been actively saying that the Royal Canadian Air Force is facing a critical shortage of CF-18s and have been looking into different options to replace them.
A Royal Canadian Navy frigate will also join NATO’s effort to deter Russia’s aggressiveness.
What amazes me is that Canada is undergoing a major defence policy review and have invited the Canadians to participate through the defence consults. Although Canada is looking to define its new policies in regards of the home defence and allies support, Trudeau is actively engaging troops across the globe.
I do understand that we have to honour our commitment and we have to take part in global security, but engaging hundreds troops in a Cold War-esque scenario instead of focusing on Canada’s main threat, terrorism, is a clear sign of the government foreign policy’s alignment with our American ally.
The decision to send troops to Latvia was not a Canadian decision, it was an American one and the Canadian government opted-in instead of allowing more resources to fight terrorism abroad.
NATO “don’t want a new Cold War”.
According to the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance members “don’t want a new Cold War. The Cold War is history and it should remain history.”
Stoltenberg believes Russia has demonstrated more willingness to use military forces, either directly or through proxies, and this is why a deployment into the Eastern Europe’s allied countries is necessary.
“They will send a clear message that an attack on one ally will be an attack on the whole alliance,” he said. “I believe this approach, with defence and dialogue, is the only viable long-term approach to Russia.”
However, NATO has been marching eastward since Crimea rejoined Russia. In June 2015, Ian Litschko wrote an analysis arguing that NATO was moving East at an alarming pace and that NATO’s primary role was to “contribute to North Atlantic security.”
“The key point to take from that statement is the applicants’ ability to contribute to North Atlantic security. Looking at nations’ abilities to contribute should perhaps have been examined a little more closely during previous membership bids, but it certainly should now, at least within the context of how much benefit new members would bring compared to probable Russian response. If the reason for expansion is for the sake of expansion and increasing NATO’s sphere of influence in the face of a more aggressive Russia, than it is too far east. Such a decision would provide some credence to Russia’s claims that NATO policy is, at least in part, directed against it.”
While NATO is marching eastward, it is understandable that Russia feels the pressure of an upcoming possible confrontation with the alliance. Stoltenberg argues that NATO has every right to defend its allied country by sending troops but strongly condemn Russian troops moving toward its Western borders.
Stoltenberg is a brilliant individual but it makes no sense, at least to me, that NATO has the right to do whatever they want while Russia should just sit there and do nothing to defend its own borders.
If you want conflict de-escalation, you engage in diplomatic talks and you stand down your military. NATO has been doing nothing but bolster its troops in Eastern Europe. Stoltenberg argues that NATO is open to dialogue, but only flexes its muscles on Russia’s borders. That said, it goes both ways. Russia and NATO both have to show some resolve and actively engage in diplomatic talks; one of the only options to end the already-started second Cold War.
Jonathan Wade served in the Canadian Forces for 14 years and is a combat veteran of Afghanistan. He owns The Sentinel, a blog on Canada, Russia and the Arctic. Specialized in military and foreign affairs, his military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war, and has a fondness for technical details. Join Jonathan’s community on Twitter@JonathanWadeCD.
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