Russian-Ukrainian crisis: Trudeau meets NATO chief

ADAZI, LATVIA — Justin Trudeau joined NATO allies on Tuesday in staging a theatrical rebuke of Russia’s war on Ukraine from a heavily armored war playground and at a lit press conference from one of the alliance’s Eastern European bases.

During a whirlwind trip to Latvia, the Prime Minister promised Baltic leaders that Canada would stand with them in the fight against Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and its cyberattacks against their country.

Trudeau and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made it clear that NATO’s purpose is defensive, but NATO’s basic agreement – that an attack on a member is a attack on all – is very present.

“We are here to protect every inch of Allied territory, of Latvia and of all other NATO countries,” Stoltenberg told a joint press conference at the Adazi military base northeast of Riga, Latvia.

The Norwegian politician’s voice boomed over a loudspeaker during a joint press conference with Trudeau and Defense Minister Anita Anand, as well as the Spanish and Latvian Prime Ministers, Pedro Sanchez and Krisjanis Karins. dusted off the politicians on their podiums, positioned in the foreground of more than a dozen tanks, heavy armored vehicles and other imposing military vehicles.

“It really demonstrates NATO solidarity,” Stoltenberg said, in case anyone missed the point.

“The purpose of this deterrence is not to provoke a war but to prevent a war. It is to preserve the peace.”

Trudeau said Russian President Vladimir Putin made a mistake thinking Ukraine and NATO were weak and divided.

“He was shown how wrong he was,” Trudeau said. “Ukrainians are strong and brave and rising up to defend their land. And NATO has never been so united and determined as we are now. I know I can speak for all NATO members when I say we will all abide by article five.”

Sanchez, echoing Anand’s earlier remarks, tore a page from the Canadian feminist foreign policy playbook and paid tribute to International Women’s Day.

“March 8 should have been a day of celebration for women and girls in Ukraine,” Sanchez said, adding that “Putin’s brutal aggression forces them to flee their country or fight for their lives.”

Sanchez said he wanted to “pay tribute to all of them today”, promising that NATO would stand with them.

Earlier, the group drove over bumpy roads, dwarfed by tall evergreens to a NATO training ground called French Hill for a tour of a huge battlefield dotted with a dozen heavy tanks. and artillery pieces on a base that was once a Cold War outpost of the former Soviet Union.

Canadian Chief of Defense General Wayne Eyre joined them for a tour and briefing on war games.

Canada leads the NATO battlegroup in Latvia, part of its longstanding deterrence efforts against Russia – a mission that has taken on new importance in light of the Russian invasion.

It is one of four such efforts in the Baltics and Poland, intended to demonstrate the strength of the NATO alliance in the region against Russia.

Navigating the sometimes deep land, the entourage of politicians and military officials visited the soldiers from the 10 NATO countries who are stationed here.

“They see a renewed focus. This is the front line of freedom,” Eyre said.

Trudeau questioned a Latvian commander from a hilltop bunker that overlooked the huge plain of rutted earth.

Trudeau said Canada’s mission in Latvia, dubbed Operation Reassurance, was not due for renewal until 2023, but given the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Canada was immediately announcing a multi-year renewal.

Trudeau arrived in Latvia in the early hours of Tuesday ahead of an early morning meeting with Karins. It was followed by an expanded teleconference with the leaders of Baltic NATO members Estonia and Lithuania on the 13th day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Trudeau said Russia had “weaponized” disinformation not only against Ukraine but in all “democracies around the West”.

“Quite frankly, you lived not only with the military threat, not only with the history of occupation, but also with the daily use of propaganda and disinformation to try to undermine democracy and the values ​​you have,” Trudeau told the three Baltic countries. leaders.

Putin is very offended by the reinforcement of NATO on the borders of his country. He opposed the expansion of NATO into countries that were once in the Soviet sphere.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO but was seeking to join the transatlantic alliance of 30 countries as well as closer ties with the European Union. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 after overthrowing the Kremlin-backed administration in Kiev.

It marked the most significant breach of Europe’s borders since World War II – a step now overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Trudeau said the continued show of unity among NATO allies and other democracies in support of Ukraine is an essential part of ending the crisis.

Karins told Trudeau that the Russian invasion had failed to “drive a wedge between Europe and North America, to drive a wedge between NATO partners.” Instead, he said, “the exact opposite” happened and there was a “coming together of minds”.

Trudeau told Baltic leaders that Canada has the third largest population of Ukrainians in the world after Ukraine itself and Russia, “so we are deeply, deeply troubled and engaged by this conflict in Ukraine.”

“We demonstrate that, contrary to what Putin thinks or wrongly thought, democracies can and will defend not only themselves and their territory, but the principles, rules and values ​​that make us successful,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau was due to leave Latvia for Germany before the end of the day on a visit that lasted less than 20 hours. After two days in Germany, Trudeau wraps up his European trip to Poland later this week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 8, 2022

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Christi C. Elwood