On December 15, 2023, the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, alongside General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff, embarked on a visit to Latvia – a country hosting Canada’s most extensive foreign military presence. This visit holds particular significance as Minister Blair and General Eyre personally engage with the dedicated members of the Canadian Armed Forces deployed in Latvia as part of the Canadian-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Group. The purpose is to express gratitude for their continuous efforts in safeguarding Canada and its NATO Allies.

During the visit, Minister Blair emphasized Canada’s commitment to significantly bolstering its military presence on Operation REASSURANCE. The current troop count of approximately 1,000 is set to more than double, reaching up to 2,200 persistently deployed troops by 2026, aligning with the ambitious goals outlined in the July 2023 Roadmap on Scaling the eFP Latvia Battle Group to Brigade.

Minister Blair unveiled a series of strategic measures aimed at enhancing Canada’s military footprint in Latvia, fortifying the security of NATO’s eastern flank. These measures include:

1. Tactical Aviation Deployment:

Canada is set to deploy four Griffon helicopters to the eFP Battle Group starting in the summer of 2024. Additionally, periodic deployments of Chinooks will commence in the fall of 2025. This marks the first persistent deployment of tactical aviation capabilities by Canada in Europe since the late 1990s and early 2000s during operations in Bosnia and Kosovo.

2. Anti-Armour Capability Boost:

Canada has successfully concluded the procurement of Portable Anti-Armour Missile Systems for its forces in Latvia. Valued at $32.2 million USD and designated an Urgent Operational Requirement, these modern anti-tank weapons, known as Portable Anti “X” Missile (PAXM), will empower Canadian soldiers to effectively counter threats from adversaries’ main battle tanks, thus reinforcing NATO’s deterrence posture. The initial systems are expected to be operational by mid-2024.

3. Introduction of Medium Range Radar:

Canada has deployed Medium Range Radar capabilities for the first time, representing the foundational element of the air defence capability for the Multinational Brigade. This radar will provide crucial aerial surveillance, swiftly and accurately identifying air vehicles and munitions. Efforts are ongoing to acquire a comprehensive air defence system for the NATO Battle Group in Latvia, a move announced in March 2023.

4. Arrival of Leopard 2A4M Tanks:

A Canadian Army Tank Squadron, consisting of 15 Leopard 2A4M tanks, along with supporting personnel and equipment, recently arrived in Latvia as part of Operation REASSURANCE. With the full complement of approximately 130 personnel expected by spring 2024, this deployment significantly enhances the eFP Battle Group’s military capabilities, affirming Canada’s commitment to the Canada-Latvia Joint Declaration of June 2022.

Minister Blair also disclosed a substantial investment exceeding $15 million CAD in critical infrastructure required for scaling up the current battle group to a brigade, as part of the $2.6 billion commitment announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in July 2023. This includes allocations for tank storage at Camp Adaži, improvements to living conditions at the camp, accommodations, and other supports at Ceri—the future headquarters of the multinational brigade. Over 1 million euros will be dedicated to expanding real-life support and workspace at Camp Adaži and Ceri.

These decisive measures underscore Canada’s unwavering dedication to reinforcing NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, exemplified by the doubling of its military presence in Latvia and the ambitious move towards scaling up to a brigade. The investments in infrastructure and capabilities are poised to significantly enhance the mission’s effectiveness, ensuring that the Canadian Armed Forces are well-prepared to defend NATO’s eastern flank. As a founding member of NATO, Canada remains 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,” commented the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence.