Latvia’s safety currently ensured by approximately 1,400 NATO troops
There are approximately 1,400 NATO troops currently stationed in Latvia. There are plans to increase this number, as confirmed by Defence Ministry.
1,300 of those troops – the largest portion of this contingent of foreign troops – belong to the multinational combat group led by Canada. The battalion stationed at Ādaži base includes soldiers from Canada, Albania, Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. The battalion has at its disposal different military vehicles, including combat cars and tanks.
The goal behind NATO’s expanded presence is increasing the alliance’s deterrence policy and demonstrating its defensive capabilities, along with solidarity and readiness to protect member states from all forms of aggression. A festive welcoming ceremony was organized for the arrival of NATO forces in June 2017.
Following Russia’s performed annexation of Crimea in 2014, USA decided to send multiple different-level units to Latvia as part of Atlantic Resolve operation. After the arrival of NATO’s battalion, USA reduced their presence to 70 soldiers with five Black Hawn helicopters at Lielvārde Air Force base, Defence Ministry adds.
NATO’s integration unit has been stationed in Latvia since 2015. This unit represents 12 NATO member states – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Turkey, Britain, USA and Latvia.
It is expected that the number of allied troops stationed in Latvia will increase in the future. At the beginning of July, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced during his visit to Latvia that his country plans to extend its rule over NATO’s multinational battalion until 2023.
It was mentioned in the announcement that Canada will remain in charge of the multinational combat group in Latvia and will increase the presence of Canadian troops in Latvia from 455 to 540. During NATO summit in July, Latvia’s Defence Minister Raimonds Bergmanis and his colleagues from Denmark, Estonia, Canada, Britain and Lithuanian signed a letter of intent in favour of formation of Multinational Division North. Headquarters of this division will be located at Ādaži base in Latvia. Objectives of multinational division North will increase defence planning, organization and realization of military drills and activities to increase compatibility and cooperation among military personnel from different countries. The newly formed headquarters meet NATO’s operational analysis requirements and will be part of the existing command structure of the alliance responsible for ensuring security in the Baltic region. The headquarters will be an efficient and military capable structure that will provide unified command for division-sized armed forces and NATO combat groups stationed in Baltic States. Officers from participating countries – Denmark, Latvia and Estonia – will be serving in headquarters.
The headquarters will answer to the Multinational Corps Northeast, which is located in Szczecin, Poland. The headquarters will commence work in September. The initial operational potential is planned to have been reached by the first half of next year, and full operational potential – by mid-2020.