Canadian Forces Ends Mission in Poland

Canadian Armed Forces members from C-Company, 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (3PPCLI), fire a 84MM recoilless rifle (Carl Gustav) in a defensive position during Exercise SABRE STRIKE, in Poland, on June 7, 2017, as part of Operation REASSURANCE.

The Canadian Forces wrapped up a three year-long deployment in Poland under Operation REASSURANCE. The Land Task Force (LTF) ended its mission with a parade in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland.

OPeration REASSURANCE in Poland. 2014-2017.

OPeration REASSURANCE in Poland. 2014-2017.

From May 2014 to August 2017, Canada deployed more than 1,000 soldiers from CFB Edmonton, CFB Petawawa, and CFB Valcartier. Throughout the three-year mission, the Canadian soldiers participated in more than 35 exercises in eight different countries:

  1. Bulgaria
  2. Estonia
  3. Germany
  4. Hungary
  5. Latvia
  6. Lithuania
  7. Poland
  8. Romania

According to the National Defence website: “various rotations of troops have served on Canada’s LTF in Poland since May 2014, and have participated in military exercises throughout the region to improve interoperability with Allies and demonstrate NATO’s resolve to protect Alliance territories and partners. Op REASSURANCE refers to the military activities undertaken by the CAF since 2014 to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Eastern and Central Europe with the aim of reassuring nations in the region of NATO’s commitment to support their stability and security.”

With the end of the Canadian deployment in Poland, Canada is now leading the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup (eFP BG) in Latvia. More than 1,000 soldiers from seven NATO countries are directly working with the Latvian Land Forces Infantry Brigade. The Canadian Forces is contributing more than 450 troops to the eFP BG, including headquarters staff, an infantry company with Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV), military police, and logistical and communications support.

Canadian Armed Forces and Italian soldiers cover their arcs of fire during a relief-in-place exercise at the training grouds of Camp Adazi, Latvia, as part of the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup's training during Operation REASSURANCE on August 2, 2017.

Canadian Armed Forces and Italian soldiers cover their arcs of fire during a relief-in-place exercise at the training grouds of Camp Adazi, Latvia, as part of the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup’s training during Operation REASSURANCE on August 2, 2017.

The Canadian-led eFP BG in Latvia consists of soldiers from the following countries:

  1. Albania
  2. Canada
  3. Italy
  4. Poland
  5. Slovenia
  6. Spain

“Today’s ceremony marks the implementation of one of Canada’s key NATO commitments. Leading NATO efforts to deter and defeat potential aggression is a core mission in Canada’s new Defence Policy: Strong, Secure, Engaged. As the leader of an enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup, Canada is committed to ensuring a peaceful and stable Europe. We stand united with our NATO Allies and the people of Latvia,” said Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister.

According to the National Defence, the eFP BG’s mission is to counter Russia’s decision to use military force against its neighbour, and its military buildup in the region. Its mission is to prevent conflict and preserve regional stability.

Russian soldiers conducting training in eastern Russia.

Russian soldiers conducting training in eastern Russia.

That said, Canada’s decision to support its NATO allies is justified. As an alliance members, especially as a founding country, Canada had to show its commitment to its allies. However, justifying such a deployment due to Russian military buildup in the region is clearly unjustified.

Russia has the right to move troops and deploy them as they please in their country. As far as I know, Russia has not been actively readying its troops for a possible invasion of the Baltic States. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin said it would be madness to do so more than two years ago.

I do not believe Russia has the intention to do so. Yet, when Crimea voted to rejoin Russia and the conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted, Canada openly supported Ukraine and started training Ukrainian soldiers. While Canadian Foreign Minister, Christina Freeland has been supporting the Ukrainian government through diplomatic measures, its government has been sending non-lethal equipment to Ukraine. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ottawa ink a deal on lethal weaponry in the next few years. Light Armoured Vehicles would be one of the main pieces of equipment in the deal if you ask me, especially since Saudi Arabia has been using them against its own people and that Canada could very well cancel the deal over it.

Canada could very well follow in the United States footsteps and supply lethal weaponry to Ukraine.

The main concern here is that Ukraine is not part of NATO, and I believe that NATO’s move in the Baltic States is solely based on the events in Ukraine. By doing so, NATO is putting themselves in a situation where it’s using their resources to support a non-NATO country under the pretext of a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

The events in Ukraine gave NATO a perfect justification to move more troops to Russia’s border and influence the regional situation — an eastward march.

Canada, in this particular scenario, has been openly talking tough to Russia and has been committed its largest number of troops in Europe since the end of the Cold War. By training Ukrainian soldiers and stationing troops in Latvia, Canada is sending a message to Russia that it will stand with its allies. However, Canada’s decision to train Ukrainian troops is only fuelling the tension in the region as Ukraine is quickly becoming a new proxy war between NATO and Russia.

A Joint Task Force - Ukraine instructor provides guidance and safety support to a Ukrainian soldier during section attack practice, part of small team training, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, Ukraine, on March 3, 2017.

A Joint Task Force – Ukraine instructor provides guidance and safety support to a Ukrainian soldier during section attack practice, part of small team training, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, Ukraine, on March 3, 2017.

Unfortunately, all possible outcomes through diplomatic solutions have been failing and will most likely never succeed due to the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine.

With Canada leading an eFP BG in Latvia, it is taking a key leadership role in NATO’s mission to deter Russia in the region. Meanwhile, Canada has cut its diplomatic talks with Russia and keeps its interaction with the Russian Embassy in Ottawa to a bare minimum.

Honestly, I believe NATO actions in eastern Europe justify a massive military hardware modernization program and reviving the Cold War-era fear of Russian invasion of neighbour countries is a perfect justification to do so.

Canada should lead in diplomatic talks, not with troops on the ground.