NATO chief says Canadian missions in Latvia, Iraq helping strengthen alliance

LONDON — NATO’s secretary-general has come out swinging in defence of the military alliance, and says Canada is playing a key role in the helping strengthen the 70-year-old organization thanks in part to its contributions to different missions.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Jens Stoltenberg listed Canada’s deployment of hundreds of troops to Latvia and Iraq, naval warships to NATO fleets and other assistance as critical to helping protect North America and Europe and strengthening the alliance’s transatlantic bond.

“I’m extremely grateful for all the many contributions by Canada to the alliance, and by standing together, we are all safer,” Stoltenberg said. “In an unpredictable world, we need strong multilateral institutions like NATO, and Canada is helping us to strengthen NATO.”

From the outside, some might question just how strong the 29-member military alliance actually is as Stoltenberg joins Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other NATO leaders here on Wednesday to officially mark its 70th birthday.

Sparks have been flying between U.S. President Donald Trump and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, who have been at odds over the state of NATO, which was created at the start of the Cold War and is now facing new external threats and internal divisions.

Macron last month suggested the alliance was suffering from “brain death” because of a lack of co-ordination and communication between members, specifically Trump’s surprise decision to pull U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.

The U.S. president fired back Tuesday, calling Macron’s words “nasty,” criticizing France’s economy and saying the European nation needs NATO more than the U.S. does. Macron refused to back down, calling for more focus from the alliance on strategic planning and less on money issues.

Trudeau has been among those leaders seeking to shore up alliance by underscoring NATO’s importance to both North American and European security and its success at having ensured relative peace and security for its members since the end of the Second World War.

“Canada is playing an important role and Canada is always helpful to try to find ways forward when we see differences within this alliance,” Stoltenberg said.

“The strength of this alliance is … we are 29 different nations from both sides of the Atlantic with different histories, different political parties and government, but despite these differences, we have always been able to unite around our core task to protect and defend each other.

At the same time, Stoltenberg said the alliance is changing to meet the threats of today and tomorrow. That includes not only a newly emergent Russia and, increasingly, China, but also domains like cyberspace and space itself as well as terrorism.

“So NATO is agile, NATO is adapting,” he said. “We are adapting agilely in a time when we need to change because the world is changing.”

Canada has had 600 troops leading a NATO battlegroup in Latvia since 2017. The battlegroup, which includes soldiers from eight other nations and is one of four such forces in the Baltics and Poland, was established in reaction to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.

The federal government has said Canada will continue to lead the battlegroup until at least 2023. Asked how long Canadians could be required as a check against Russia, Stoltenberg said: ”I will not speculate about how long. This is a presence which doesn’t have a specific time limit.

“So far it’s very hard to say there are positive signs,” he said of Russia. “But we need to continue to work and to strive for progress because this is in our interests to find ways to prevent a new Cold War and to prevent a new arms race.”

If there is one positive in the West’s tense relationship with Russia, however, Stoltenberg suggested it is that Canada and the U.S., which is leading a battlegroup in Poland, have stepped up to once again help Europe in a time of need.

“I can hardly think of any stronger demonstration of North America’s commitment to NATO and to European security than more Canadian and U.S. troops in Europe.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 4, 2019.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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

Just Posted

Ecologist Tony Blake was among several dozen area residents who participated in Tuesday’s public hearing on the future Molly Banister Drive extension. Blake argued for preserving trail connectedness and the wildlife corridor. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Molly Banister road extension stays

A nearly nine-hour public hearing ends with a 5-3 vote for keeping the road alignment

A server wears a mask at a restaurant, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Health officials receive thousands of COVID-related complaints

About 800 to 1,000 people call health officials weekly

Shaun Janse van Rensburg, a Red Deer resident, said he is tired of changing clocks twice a year. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
After COVID, Kenney may consider referendum on daylight savings

Albertans may be divided on several issues today, but there’s a consensus… Continue reading

The COVID-19 death toll in Alberta reached 309, according to numbers posted on the province’s website Tuesday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Another 422 COVID cases reported in Alberta and two more deaths

The Alberta government reported 422 COVID-19 cases Tuesday and two more virus… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
COVID-19 death toll verges on 10,000 as second wave continues to surge

Nearly 10,000 Canadians have died due to COVID-19, a mark of the… Continue reading

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts celebrates after a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning in Game 6 of the baseball World Series Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Best Betts: Dodgers win first World Series title since 1988

Best Betts: Dodgers win first World Series title since 1988

Wade Sira is shown in a handout photo. Sira, the leader of Saskatchewan's pro-independence Buffalo Party, says he's extremely happy with last night's provincial election results, even though no candidates clinched a seat.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Wade Sira MANDATORY CREDIT
Buffalo Party’s strong showing in Saskatchewan vote a warning to Moe: experts

Buffalo Party’s strong showing in Saskatchewan vote a warning to Moe: experts

FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2019, file photo, Christian Coleman, of the United States, celebrates after crossing the line to win the gold medal in men's 100 meter final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo/Nick Didlick)
World champion Coleman banned 2 yrs; to miss Tokyo Olympics

World champion Coleman banned 2 yrs; to miss Tokyo Olympics

Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Brett Lauther returns to the sideline after missing his fourth field goal attempt during second half CFL action against the Edmonton Eskimos, in Regina, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.  It's been a very difficult year for a number of kickers this year in the NFL, but CFL veteran Lauther continues to wait for his opportunity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
Former Riders kicker Brett Lauther patiently awaiting opportunity to kick in the NFL

Former Riders kicker Brett Lauther patiently awaiting opportunity to kick in the NFL

Nashville SC midfielder Randall Leal, left, is congratulated by Alex Muyl after scoring a goal during the first half of the team's MLS soccer match against the Montreal Impact, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Willis gets MLS-leading 9th shutout, Nashville tops Montreal

Willis gets MLS-leading 9th shutout, Nashville tops Montreal

Kansas City mayor, star quarterback want Raptors to make Missouri temporary home

Kansas City mayor, star quarterback want Raptors to make Missouri temporary home

Djokovic, Thiem advance after slow starts in Vienna openers

Djokovic, Thiem advance after slow starts in Vienna openers

Most Read