Despite the Coronavirus pandemic both in Canada and in Eastern Europe, Russia and Canada are still keeping a watchful eye on each other across the Latvian border.
Canada’s NATO contingent in Latvia continues exercises near the Russian border despite a general scaling back of activities of the Canadian Armed Forces at home and around the world.
Recently, a group of Canadian soldiers left their base near Riga and performed a multi-day exercise repelling a simulated attack before returning home. Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics believes Canada’s troops are vital due to continued Russian military presence near the Baltic states, according to The Canadian Press. While the situation is not as volatile as it used to be, he urges NATO not to get complacent despite a lull in tensions.
Colonel Laforest, commander of Task Force Latvia, believes his mission is different and will need to continue regular operations despite the pandemic – with for new social distancing regulations and a regular base-wide disinfection every two hours. While plans for a reduced capacity deployment were floated in the Canadian government, they were quickly rejected due to the message it might send to Russia and Canada’s allies. NATO and European officials have been worried that Russia may test the alliance during the COVID-19 outbreak, especially when cases inside the European Union were surging while Russia’s were fairly low. Russia’s continued exercises near the Latvian border have not scaled down despite a massive outbreak within Russia’s borders, and the Russian navy and air force continues to test NATO defenses.
Canada plans to lead the battlegroup until at least 2023, and will rotate out the currently
deployed soldiers in July.