Canada to give troops for NATO force, ready to talk to Russia

Thu Jun 30, 2016 2:51pm EDT
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada confirmed on Thursday it would provide a significant number of troops for a new 4,000-strong NATO force on Russia's border but also said it was ready to talk to Moscow in a bid to reduce tensions.

Canada, the United States, Germany and Britain each will command a battalion in the new unit, which is designed to help deter any show of force such as that deployed by Russia in Crimea in 2014.

Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who also condemned the actions of Russian-backed militants in Ukraine, declined to give many details about the new force. NATO diplomats say the Canadians will be based in Latvia.

Sajjan announced the move a day after U.S. President Barack Obama gave a speech in the Canadian Parliament and told Canada it needed to make a bigger contribution to NATO.

"As NATO we do need to be able to send a strong message that the actions in Crimea and Ukraine are not acceptable," Sajjan said in a phone interview.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Washington would ask Canada for help to establish the force, given a lack of enthusiasm by other members.

"Thank you, Canada," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a Twitter post. "All four battalions for NATO's east now have a lead nation."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is due to unveil Canada's contribution at a NATO summit in Poland next week.   Continued...

 
A NATO flag flies at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels during a NATO ambassadors meeting on the situation in Ukraine and the Crimea region, March 2, 2014. REUTERS/Yves Herman