Canada pledges more troops for Latvia in wider NATO reinforcement
PHOTO CAPTION: A Canadian with The Canadian Special Operations Regiment participates in a timed shooting competition during Menton week at Joint base Lewis-McChord, Wa., December 4, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joseph Parrish via U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)
VILNIUS (Reuters) -Canada pledged on Monday to deploy up to 1,200 more troops in Latvia as part of a NATO plan to reinforce its battalions deterring Russian aggression in the Baltic region to combat-ready brigade level.
"We are going to more than double our presence ... to serve and defend democracy and the rule of law," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a joint press conference with his Latvian counterpart Krisjanis Karins Trudeau at the Adazi military base in Latvia after an agreement was signed.
Canada leads a NATO "light" battalion in Latvia, currently 1,700 strong, intended to expand into a larger response force should Russia invade NATO territory.
But NATO had already said the force - along with similar battalions in Estonia, Lithuania and Poland - would be strengthened to become combat-capable.
"This additional personnel will reinforce and enhance our land, maritime and air capabilities and support special operations in central and eastern Europe," Trudeau said.
Trudeau was visiting Latvia ahead of a NATO summit in the nearby Lithuanian capital Vilnius on July 11-12.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas and Johan Ahlander; editing by Anna Ringstrom and Kevin Liffey)