Remarks at the joint media availability with the Prime Minister of Latvia, Krišjānis Kariņš
I am honoured to be here in Latvia at Camp Adazi with my friend Prime Minister Kariņš. I'm especially grateful to be able to visit with the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces who are doing extraordinary work leading this battle group. I arrived in Latvia this morning and met first with President Rinkēvičs and then with Krišjānis, the Prime Minister.
Thank you so much for welcoming us today, my friend, and for being such incredible hosts for the Canadian Armed Forces members, here.
At our meetings, we discussed forging stronger ties between our countries, including increased trade. The relations between our two countries have always been solid, but today they are more important than ever. That is why we have expanded our embassy in Riga.
Our countries have strong people to people ties and also meaning full historical ties. Canada was the first G7 nation to ratify Latvia's accession to NATO, and 32 years ago we were the first G7 member to recognize the restoration of Latvia's independence. The sovereignty of nations, their territorial integrity, the rights of people to choose their own future is at the heart of why our two countries have come together today. In my meetings with both the President and the Prime Minister, our top priorities were support for Ukraine, an action we need to continue to take to deter Russia's ongoing and unacceptable aggression.
When Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, NATO's allies mobilized and formed Operation Reassurance to establish a strong military presence in Eastern Europe. Canada stepped up to lead a battle group here in Latvia on NATO's eastern flank beginning in 2017. To date, hundreds of Canadian Armed Forces members have trained and served alongside soldiers from across the alliance. Today, I'm announcing that we are going to more than double our presence, deploying up to an additional 1,200 members of the Canadian Armed Forces to serve and defend democracy and the rule of law.
These additional personnel will reinforce and enhance our land, maritime and air capabilities and support special operations in Central and Eastern Europe. This is part of a $2.6 billion investment we are announcing today, which also includes the purchase of critical weapons systems and support for intelligence and cyber activities.
The renewal and expansion of Operation Reassurance will help Canada make a concrete contribution to the largest reinforcement of NATO’s collective defence in a generation. To follow up on the commitment we made at the Madrid Summit last year, we will work with our allies so that the Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Latvia becomes a brigade.
This is just one more way that Canada is stepping up to support our allies and standing up against the Kremlin's aggression.
Canada has helped lead the charge in putting in place one of the toughest sanctions regimes ever. We've provided billions of dollars in military, humanitarian and financial support to Ukrainians in their heroic defence against Russian invaders. Canada and all countries must be clear that Russia's unprovoked war on an independent country, on a free and democratic Ukraine is a threat to freedom, international law, human rights and the whole set of shared democratic values that generations of soldiers have fought to defend.
I look forward to meeting with CAF members on the base here and thank them for their sacrifice and their service. This is Canada's largest overseas mission, and we are here because European security is important to Canadian security. As soldiers in Operation Reassurance. You have an important role to play in defending and deterring the very serious threats to peace and stability that we're seeing today.
And you do it thousands of miles from home, away from your family and loved ones. So, thank you.
I was struck by the courage and solidarity of the members of the battlegroup that you are leading here in Latvia. Canadians are proud to serve alongside men and women from one third of NATO’s member countries: Albania, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and soon Denmark. And now that Finland is a member of NATO and that Sweden will soon follow suit, we hope that our new friends will join members of this incredibly solid and diverse Battlegroup.
This Enhanced Forward Presence is the most multinational in all of NATO, and this is a testament to the incredible support of all these nations and Canada's belief in strength through multilateralism.
As Krišjānis pointed out, this is the way forward in modern defence. Almost a dozen countries from across NATO are cooperating, training and working alongside each other and learning valuable lessons from each other that make our collective defence stronger. One thing we always say in Canada is that diversity is a source of strength for this battle group here in Camp Adazi is proof of that, and the work we're doing together is incredibly valuable to NATO's future.
To all the troops, I want to say your service together in this mission is a great symbol for all to see that democratic nations are as strong and united as ever. NATO unity is more important than it ever has been as we're faced with a foe that still believes that might should make right and that wants to destroy everything that we've built. As allies, we draw from our strength- we draw our strength from our belief in peace, stability and the rights of people to be free to choose their own future. And I know that this is what we will focus on at the NATO Leaders Summit this week. These beliefs are what we stand for and what the troops here at Camp Adazi tirelessly defend.
Canadians and our allies and partners are incredibly grateful for all that you have done.
Thank you for your service. Thank you all for being here today.