Monday June 20, 2016

NATO calls on Canada to help defend Baltic states from Russia

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Davos, Switzerland on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Davos, Switzerland on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

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Canada doesn't have much time to make a decision about its participation in a situation that some worry will become another Cold War.

NATO's plan to mount a special force in Eastern Europe in order to deter military aggression from Russia has the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany on board. While NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has requested Canada's participation, there are concerns that such involvement would get in the way of the government's commitments to peacekeeping, particularly with a potential mission in West Africa.

Murray Brewster, CBC's senior defence reporter, explains that NATO's assembling of the allies is a plan that's been in the making since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea.

"[NATO] promised to create what was called a 'very high readiness force,' which would be about 4,000 troops ... that would be ready to move within approximately 48 hours of a crisis, and this is the force that Canada is being asked to join." - Murray Brewster, CBC senior defence reporter

Brewster says the "very high readiness force" is made up of four battalions, each with heavy equipment, and Canada is being asked to contribute troops to one as well as possibly lead.

In a statement from Russia's embassy in Ottawa, they refer to NATO's mission as a "reincarnation of Cold War containment." Scott Taylor, editor of the Canadian military magazine Esprit De Corps, agrees with the Russian embassy's view, saying that since the Baltic nations are part of the NATO alliance, they already have support of the allies should anything happen.

However, Christian Leuprecht, a political science professor at the Royal Military College and Queen's University, says this move by NATO may be what's needed to stop aggressive force by Russia before it occurs.

"Sending a battalion is about the smallest commitment that NATO can reasonably make to look credible without really going beyond needlessly agitating Russia." - Christian Leuprecht, political science professor at the Royal Military College

Do you think Canada should send troops to join the NATO mission? 

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This segment was produced by The Current's Marc Apollonio and Shannon Higgins.