An­thony Furey

Winnipeg Sun - - NEWS - afurey@post­ @an­tho­ny­furey AN­THONY FUREY

Two frigates, two coastal defence ves­sels, a Cana­dian Army light in­fantry bat­tal­ion, 8 CF-18 fighter jets along with over 2,000 mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

That was just some of Canada’s con­tri­bu­tion to the largest NATO war games since the Cold War. It just came to an end on Wed­nes­day and it took place right un­der Rus­sia’s nose. And the coun­try of Vladimir Putin didn’t like that one bit.

Oper­a­tion Tri­dent Junc­ture was the name of the two-week long mock con­flict held in Nor­way. Canada was far from the only player, with 31 coun­tries of­fer­ing up a com­bined 50,000 par­tic­i­pants.

The goal, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease from Na­tional Defence, is “to demon­strate that NATO forces are ready to counter any threat.” And an­other re­lease from NATO said the skir­mish was de­signed as a re­sponse to a “fic­ti­tious ag­gres­sor.”

The whole thing is based on the premise of what would hap­pen if Ar­ti­cle 5 was trig­gered.

That’s the Prin­ci­ple of Col­lec­tive Defence con­tained within the NATO Treaty, stip­u­lat­ing that an at­tack on one mem­ber is an at­tack on all of them. There­fore they re­spond col­lec­tively.

But while no of­fi­cial source would name it, we all know who that fic­ti­tious ag­gres­sor would be. Nor­way is one of the few NATO coun­tries that bor­ders on Rus­sia. And this was no co­in­ci­dence. Tri­dent Junc­ture was an oper­a­tion de­signed to re­spond to any po­ten­tial Rus­sian ag­gres­sion.

The Rus­sians didn’t care for dozens of coun­tries flex­ing their mus­cles right un­der their noses. Their re­sponse was muted but pointed.

It was the Rus­sian em­bassy in the United King­dom that took on the task of call­ing NATO’S bluff. “NATO con­stantly ‘as­sures’ us that its mil­i­tary ex­er­cises are not against Rus­sia, yet for some rea­son they use par­tic­u­larly Rus­sian-like uni­form and mil­i­tary hard­ware dur­ing them. Won­der why?” the em­bassy’s so­cial me­dia ac­count mused the other day.

That said, it’s not like Rus­sia hasn’t been gear­ing up them­selves. In Septem­ber, they thumbed their nose at the West by rolling out Vos­tok 2018, their own largest war games since the Cold War. Their claim of a 300,000 troop count ex­ceeded NATO’S 50,000 and in­cluded par­tic­i­pants from China, Mon­go­lia and — rather frus­trat­ingly — NATO mem­ber Turkey. So their in­dig­na­tion at Tri­dent Junc­ture can be taken with a grain of salt.

Good im­age

It’s not like Canada could have sat this one out even if the govern­ment had wanted us to, given how it was all NATO hands on deck. But it’s still a good im­age to be par­tic­i­pat­ing in it and proudly pub­li­ciz­ing it, as Na­tional Defence and Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan have done.

There’s an im­pres­sion out there than in the eyes of the pub­lic that over the past few years the Cana­dian Armed Forces have been some­how un­der­used or ne­glected. It’s an un­for­tu­nately rea­son­able im­pres­sion, given how the first de­ci­sion Justin Trudeau made upon be­ing elected Prime Min­is­ter was telling then Pres­i­dent Barack Obama he was pulling our fighter jets out of the ISIS bomb­ing mis­sion. He’s still never given an ex­pla­na­tion as to why.

Then there’s the Mali mis­sion. The Cana­dian Armed Forces mem­bers I speak with are qui­etly ask­ing why on earth we’re in the West African coun­try torn apart by sec­tar­ian strife in the first place. The vet­er­ans are ask­ing the same thing, but not so qui­etly.

But there will be no such ques­tions about some­thing like Tri­dent Junc­ture though and the broader chal­lenge it rep­re­sents. Af­ter all, we’ve still got over 500 sol­diers in Latvia, for­merly of the Soviet Union now a NATO mem­ber, as part of an Oper­a­tion Re­as­sur­ance for­ward bat­tle group.

Cana­di­ans some­times get the im­pres­sion, with the jets brought home and Afghanistan wrapped up, that the CAF isn’t do­ing much th­ese days.

But that’s just not true. It’s a lit­tle some­thing to keep in mind, es­pe­cially with Re­mem­brance Day com­ing up.

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