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Canada

Blair announces more than $273M in air defence, drone equipment for Latvia mission

BRUSSELS — The federal government is spending more than $273 million to acquire new military equipment for NATO’s Canada-led battle group in Latvia. 

That includes $227.5 million for a short-range air defence system from Saab Canada Inc., intended to defend against fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and drones, and another $46 million for counter-drone equipment. 

Defence Minister Bill Blair says it’s the first time that the Canadian Armed Forces will have an air defence capability since 2012.

He says the equipment is being acquired on an “urgent basis” and is expected to be delivered later this year.

Blair made the announcement in Brussels, where he is attending a meeting of NATO defence ministers — and where he’s signalling Canada’s steadfast support for the military alliance.

Ministers are meeting days after former and would-be future U.S. president Donald Trump said he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to any NATO member that shirks its defence spending targets.

Canada is well short of the NATO prescription for two per cent of GDP to be spent on defence.

“I’ve lived next door to the United States for a long time. I tend to mostly ignore some of the political rhetoric that takes place during their elections,” Blair said at the summit Wednesday when asked about Trump’s comments. 

“We cannot be distracted from the importance of our collective responsibility to national security and national defence of our countries and of our alliances.”

Canada should, in turn, judge the U.S. solely on the basis of its “long history and track record of being there for global peace,” he added.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said earlier this week that NATO is “more united than ever” and that Blair’s trip would ensure Canada will “continue to have a strong voice at the table.”

Canada currently has about 1,000 troops on the ground in Latvia and it expects to ramp up that number to 2,200 persistently deployed military members by 2026. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2024.

The Canadian Press


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