Friday, December 02, 2022

More than 500 Canadian soldiers on ‘high preparedness’ for invasion of Ukraine – National |

The Canadian commander of a multinational battle group in Latvia says he is working to make sure his troops have enough supplies and can talk to each other, as tensions escalate between the NATO military alliance and Russia. Tensions have raised fears of a new war in Europe.


Canada has more than 500 troops in Latvia as part of a wider NATO assurance mission first launched in 2017 in response to concerns about Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

The Canadian contingent mainly consists of about 350 soldiers from Valcartier, Ky, which forms the core of a 1,000-strong NATO battlegroup stationed at Camp Adazi, about 30 kilometers northeast of the Latvian capital Riga.

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That battle group also includes military personnel and equipment from nine coalition countries, including Poland, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic, all under the command of a lieutenant colonel. Dan Richel.

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In an interview with The Canadian Press on Thursday, Richel said one of his main responsibilities since taking over last month has been to ensure that various teams are able to communicate quickly and accurately with each other in the region.

“English is a second language for everyone in the battle group right now,” he said. “They’re all NATO countries, obviously, so their strategy is generally the same. We just need to make sure everyone has the same understanding of all the terminology.”

Clear communication would be critical in the event of a Russian invasion, against which the battle group is specifically designed to defend. Also important: ensuring that NATO forces have fuel, ammunition and other supplies to fight.

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US urges Western ‘unity’ over Russia’s threat to attack Ukraine

US urges Western ‘unity’ over Russia’s threat to attack Ukraine
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The battle group is designed for conventional warfare, which means fighting with the same army as Russia. While Canada’s contribution is mainly infantry with armored vehicles, other partners have provided tanks, artillery and other equipment.

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“We all come with very different equipment, different tools that take different ammunition and that require different support,” Richel said. “It’s a challenge that I think we’re tackling quite well.”

The Canadian commander said the battle group’s primary focus is training and preparing for a potential attack – as has been the case since its inception five years ago.

“The battlegroup itself is already a highly-prepared combat unit,” Richel said. “I would suggest that what you see here today is a lot like what you may have seen on other rotations as well.”

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In addition to those dedicated to the battlegroup, there are approximately 200 support personnel in Canada, as well as staff from headquarters in Riga, who are responsible for planning and coordinating the big picture of NATO’s efforts in Latvia.

Similar battle groups led by Britain, Germany and the United States have been established in Estonia, Lithuania and Poland respectively. The Liberal government has said that Canada will lead the mission in Latvia until at least March 2023.

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Designed to defend against Russian aggression, the small size of battle groups meant they would almost certainly be overwhelmed in an actual battle. Instead, their main objective is to avoid a Russian invasion, with the idea that an attack on one would draw across NATO.

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Click to play video: 'The question remains how much more Canadian military can help Ukraine'

Questions remain over how much further Canadian military can help Ukraine

Questions remain over how much further Canadian military can help Ukraine

The Russian government in recent weeks has called for the coalition to withdraw all its forces from the region, including the Baltics and Poland, after mobilizing about 100,000 troops along Russia’s border with Ukraine.

Canada, the US and other NATO members have rejected the demand, raising concerns between the two sides about an armed conflict that could start in Ukraine and spread to the rest of Eastern Europe.

Asked on Wednesday whether the government would withdraw Canadian troops from Latvia and Ukraine if it attacked Russia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau underscored Canada’s commitment to the Baltic members of NATO.

“We are here in Latvia to protect the Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania and Eastern European states – from any incursion by the Russian military,” he said in French during a COVID-19 briefing in Ottawa. “We will continue the important work NATO is doing to defend its Eastern Front.”

© 2022 Canadian Press


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