Tuesday, 17 July, 2018

NewsAlert: Canada extending mission in Latvia; adding more troops

Patty Hajdu Liberal MP Patty Hajdu speaks at the Moose Hall in Thunder Bay on Thursday Dec. 21 2017
Melinda Barton | 14 July, 2018, 08:58

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has even prepared an opening act on the eve of the NATO summit in Brussels that gets underway Wednesday: a full day of events in Latvia created to shine a spotlight on Canada's latest military commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

He also says Canada will boost the number of troops in the country by 85, for a total of 540, in a show of ongoing solidarity with the 69-year-old alliance.

But while he acknowledged the tensions between Canada and the US playing out in a trade dispute triggered by American tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Trudeau said the USA remains a close friend and trading partner regardless of who is prime minister or president.

Trump took Twitter swipes at Canada following the G7 summit - mostly over Canadian dairy policy - but reserved his most persistent and personal attacks for Trudeau himself, calling him "dishonest" and "weak" for telling the closing G7 news conference that Canada would not be "pushed around" on trade. But Trudeau appeared to be far from Trump's orbit during the traditional gathering of leaders for the NATO family photo op and ceremony, standing quietly to the side as Trump chatted with Britain's Theresa May, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.

Questioned repeatedly about Trump's attacks on European allies and Canada, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged the trans-Atlantic differences but refused to say whether the United States leader's attacks are damaging the alliance.

The prime minister is expected to use the extension to defend Canada from criticism from Trump that America's northern neighbour is not spending enough on defence.

The president acknowledged Monday on Twitter that other member states have increased their defence spending, but repeated his complaint that the US contributes far more than other countries, which he said "is not fair nor is it acceptable".

"Yes, we need to take care of the poverty and challenges we have at home, each of us - but we also need to look at what we do to alleviate stress, tensions, misery around the world, because if we don't, the trend lines we'll be on as a world will leave us all poorer, poorer off".

"In order to trade we have to have safety", he said. "Will they reimburse the US?"

Some see the controversial meeting as an undermining of the alliance itself, considering some of NATO's active military missions - including the one in Latvia - were undertaken in direct response to Russia's escalating aggression in the Baltic region. "But there is a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation decision, according to which all the allies, including the Us, agreed to spend on defense of 2% of GDP until 2024", - said the official.

This will include the deployment of up to 250 Canadian Armed Forces personnel for one year beginning in the fall of 2018.