CTV NEWS, 12 June 2017
As Canadian soldiers join NATO troops in Latvia as part of Operation Reassurance, the tensions between Russia and its Baltic neighbours are especially felt in Latvian border towns.
Operation Reassurance is a multinational NATO mission aimed at discouraging Russian aggression in central and eastern Europe. Canada is deploying a total of 450 troops to Latvia to lead a battlegroup of soldiers from five other NATO countries: Italy, Spain, Poland, Slovenia and Albania.
The battlegroup is hoping to deter Russian troops from entering Latvian towns like Karsava, which is close to the Russian border and has a large Russian population. Following Russian annexation of Crimea in Ukraine more than three years ago, there are fears that similar scenarios could occur in Latvia.
One man, Juris, who lives near the Russian border, told CTV News that he welcomes the Canadian-led NATO battlegroup as a security guarantee in the region.
At the end of the day, he doesn’t fear Russia and thinks tensions in the Baltics are mostly the result of posturing and politics. But he did express concern that the NATO troop build-up could provoke the Russians.
In September, Russia is planning to deploy thousands of troops for a military exercise just a few kilometres from the Latvian border as a show of force. For many Latvians, this is unsettling.
The Latvian government and NATO officials hope the Canadian-led battlegroup will send a strong message to Russia to stay inside its borders and out of towns like Karsava.
The Canadian troops will be stationed at Camp Adazi, a Latvian military base just outside of Riga.