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Canada extends mission in Latvia

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RIGA, Latvia—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that Canada is extending its NATO commitment in Latvia by another four years—to March, 2023—and will boost the number of troops in the country to 540 from the current 455 in a show of ongoing solidarity with the alliance.

Trudeau made the announcement in Riga following a meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and indicated he hopes the increased Canadian commitment to Latvia gets the attention of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Canada is part of a NATO battle group in Latvia, which was established as the alliance's response to Russia's surprise annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its invasion of eastern Ukraine.

“We certainly hope that the message is passed clearly to President Putin that his actions in destabilizing and disregarding the international rules-based order that has been successfully underpinned by NATO amongst others over the past 75 years or so is extremely important,” said Trudeau.

“We certainly hope that Russia will choose to become a more positive actor in world affairs than it has chosen to be in the past.”

The Canadian-led group is one of four in the region, and includes troops from seven NATO allies.

Germany leads a similar force in Lithuania while Britain leads one in Estonia and the U.S. in Poland.

Before leaving Canada yesterday, Trudeau spoke to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg by telephone to stress the “importance of the alliance's unity and solidarity on defence and security issues.”

Trudeau's announcement comes a day ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels, where the stage is set for another confrontation between world leaders and Donald Trump, as Canada and other NATO allies prepare to counter the U.S. president's complaint that they aren't carrying their fair share of the burden of being part of the military alliance.

Trump has threatened to pull out of the alliance entirely if other member nations don't pony up.

Trudeau also met with Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis in Riga today.

He also laid flowers at the monument of freedom and took part in a number of activities at a military base in Adazi.

As well, Trudeau attended a candlelight vigil at a Latvian memorial to fallen soldiers, a vehicle display by multinational troops, and spoke to Canadian military personnel.

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