NATO command posts in eastern Europe a sign Russia should ’back off,’ Nicholson

OTTAWA — The Harper government struck a provocative pose Thursday, telling Russia to “back off” in Ukraine, promising to campaign for NATO membership on behalf of another former Soviet republic and urging all allies to do more.

OTTAWA — The Harper government struck a provocative pose Thursday, telling Russia to “back off” in Ukraine, promising to campaign for NATO membership on behalf of another former Soviet republic and urging all allies to do more.

The military alliance agreed in a Brussels meeting to establish a series of six command centres and two regional headquarters deep inside eastern Europe, creating important hubs for training and the possible deployment of troops in a crisis.

The defence ministers also said they will increase NATO’s rapid reaction force to 30,000 troops.

The increasing violence in eastern Ukraine and apparent buildup of Russian forces in the region was condemned by both Defence Minister Rob Nicholson in Brussels and Prime Minister Stephen Harper back home.

“Canada has responded strongly, as have many of our allies, but I think all of this indicates we need, if anything, more,” Harper said in Brampton, Ont. “We urge everybody to do more and have a forceful response, but obviously we will always work with our allies and our partners as we shape our response to those events.”

Nicholson said deploying headquarters units to Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria is only good planning and is not provocative, even though Russia’s foreign minister paints it that way.

“Have a look at the way NATO runs and has always run,” Nicholson said in a conference call following the meeting. “They should get the message we and other countries have been delivering, that they should back off their aggression against Ukraine.”

Despite the tough talk, neither Harper, nor Nicholson would immediately commit to send soldiers to staff any of the eight command units, saying instead that the government will examine where it can best help.

Canada has a frigate as part of NATO’s standing naval task force and recently saw four CF-18s return home from an air policing mission over the Baltic. It will send troops to further training exercises this year.

Nicholson also refused to commit to arming Ukraine, which the U.S. is actively considering.

The defence ministers also met government representatives from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which is seeking admission to NATO — something Nicholson says Canada supports.

Supporting the tiny republic, which is sandwiched between Russia and Turkey, is a cost-free exercise for Canada, said defence expert Steve Saideman, of Carleton University.

“Nobody is going to allow Georgia into NATO any time soon,” said Saideman. The former Soviet satellite fought a brief, nasty war with Russia in 2008 and NATO’s commitment to defend member states has made it leery of getting too deeply involved there, beyond setting up a joint training centre.

The Harper government’s reluctance to detail what it intends to contribute, over and above existing commitments, makes everything the prime minister and Nicholson have said ring hollow, Saideman said.

“On a lot of stuff, Canada can talk all it wants because it doesn’t have to pay the cost.

“On putting troops into Europe, that costs money and this government doesn’t want anything that costs money.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

One dead, five tourists missing after snowmobiles break through ice in Quebec

ST-HENRI-DE-TAILLON, Que. — Quebec provincial police search-and-rescue teams scoured the frigid waters… Continue reading

Awareness is needed to prevent the spread of new virus in central Alberta, says expert

So far the virus from Wuhan, China, has killed 17 people, sickened more than 550

Rona Ambrose decides against Tory leadership, will stay private sector

OTTAWA — Rona Ambrose, the former Alberta MP and interim party chief… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP asking public to help find missing woman

Red Deer RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance in finding a… Continue reading

Test results for Terrace Park boil water advisory expected back Thursday

A boil water advisory, affecting about 20 Red Deer homes in the… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Jan. 22 Downtown House Senior Center (5414 43 St.) in Red Deer… Continue reading

One dead, five tourists missing after snowmobiles break through ice in Quebec

ST-HENRI-DE-TAILLON, Que. — Quebec provincial police search-and-rescue teams scoured the frigid waters… Continue reading

Rona Ambrose decides against Tory leadership, will stay private sector

OTTAWA — Rona Ambrose, the former Alberta MP and interim party chief… Continue reading

POLL: Do you agree with the city’s decision to continue using the RCMP for policing?

Do you agree with the city’s decision to continue using the RCMP… Continue reading

Hamilton’s Forge FC sells star midfielder Tristan Borges to Belgian team

Forge FC has sold star midfielder Tristan Borges, the leading scorer and… Continue reading

Akim Aliu, who spoke out about racism, signs with Czech team

Akim Aliu, the player who helped prompt a new discussion about racism… Continue reading

Netflix faces growth pressure in Canada as it picks up 125,000 new subscribers

TORONTO — Netflix recruited more Canadian subscribers in the final months of… Continue reading

“Naughty boy:” Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77

LONDON — Terry Jones, a founding member of the anarchic Monty Python… Continue reading

Most Read