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Article: Canada to bolster Latvia NATO deployment with 15 Leopard 2 tanks

Leopard 2A4 tanks from the Royal Canadian Dragoons, C Squadron travel in the Wainwright Garrison training area

Canada to bolster Latvia NATO deployment with 15 Leopard 2 tanks

PHOTO CAPTION: Leopard 2A4 tanks from the Royal Canadian Dragoons, C Squadron travel in the Wainwright Garrison training area during Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE in Wainwright, Alberta, Canada on May 15, 2017. JF Lauzé/Courtesy Canadian Armed Forces via REUTERS/File Photo



By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada will bolster its force in Latvia with the deployment of 15 Leopard 2A4M tanks as part of NATO efforts to build a combat-capable brigade in a country that borders with Russia, the defence minister said on Friday.

The Army tank squadron will be fully deployed by the fall, Defence Minister Anita Anand said, speaking to reporters from Brussels.

"This will significantly boost the capabilities of the Canada-led NATO battle group in Latvia, ensuring its continued ability to protect the eastern flank of our alliance," Anand said.

Canada is in the process of increasing its presence in Latvia, where it has 800 members of its armed forces in its largest foreign military deployment. The battle group in Latvia is made up from contributions from 11 nations.

In 2016, NATO decided to increase its military presence in the eastern part of the alliance as a "deterrence and defence posture", citing an "aggressive" Russia. A year ago, Canada, Latvia and their NATO partners agreed tobolster the force to a brigade.

Canada is also working alongside Latvia to train Ukrainian junior officers on intelligence reconnaissance and battle planning.

Canada, which has one of the world's largest Ukrainian diasporas, has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine in its war with Russia, and has supplied military and financial assistance to Kyiv since the invasion in February 2022.

It is also a founding member of NATO. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has visited war-time Kyiv twice, including last week, when he pledged an additional C$500 million ($378.5 million) in new military aid.

"Let me be clear. Canada and all NATO allies will always defend every inch of NATO territory, and we are deploying the necessary capabilities and personnel to make good on that promise," Anand said.

Anand spoke virtually with reporters in Ottawa amid meetings of the alliance's defence ministers in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

Asked who Canada supported as the new NATO chief, Anand declined to give a name, but she did express confidence in its current leader, Jens Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg's term has already been prolonged three times, and he is due to step down in September after nine years as secretary-general of the military alliance, which has assumed even greater importance since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"I have full confidence in Secretary General Stoltenberg's leadership," Anand said. "He has been a very steady hand during a time of intensity in Europe and in the global strategic environment."

($1 = 1.3209 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; editing by Jonathan Oatis)



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