The Canadian military has completed a two-week training exercise with NATO troops stationed in Latvia as concerns rise that Russian troops could target the country next.
Danish fighter jets, American combat helicopters and Canadian troops put on a display of impressive firepower Friday as part of a routine yearly training exercise as the possibility looms that NATO allies could be forced to engage in the escalating conflict in Ukraine.
“We’ve been ready, we are ready, we will be ready,” Capt. Marc-Alexandre Pageau told CTV National News. “But our focus is now on the Latvian mission.”
NATO has so far refused calls to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. The country’s president says such an action would protect civilians from Russian airstrikes, but NATO has demurred over concerns of triggering a wider war in Europe.
However, NATO forces have said repeatedly that they will defend all allied territory and consider an attack on one attack on all.
“We are very efficiently studying what is going on in Ukraine, and a lot of lessons [were] learned in this exercise scenario,” Leonid Kalnins, Latvian Chief of Defense, told CTV National News.
This comes amid growing concerns in Latvia that the country, positioned between Russia and Belarus, may be targeted next by Russian troops.
“The current situation helps us to focus on our task and why we are here,” Lt. Col. John Dan Richel with the Latvia battle group told CTV National News.
On Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Canada and other NATO allies to “step up” defense spending in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Canada has made no formal commitment to increase spending. However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in late February that Canada would deploy an additional 460 Armed Forces troops to Latvia.
More than 500 soldiers are currently deployed in the country, with another 130 expected in the coming weeks.