Russia-Ukraine: Is Latvia Russia’s next target?

The Canadian military has completed a two-week exercise with NATO troops stationed in Latvia amid concerns that Russian troops could further target the country.

Danish warplanes, US combat helicopters and Canadian troops put on an impressive display of firepower Friday as part of a regular annual exercise because of the potential NATO allies have may be forced to participate in the escalating conflict in Ukraine.

“We are ready, we are ready, we will be ready,” Captain Marc-Alexandre Pageau told CTV National News. “But our focus now is on the Latvian mission.”

NATO has so far rejected calls to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. The country’s president said such an action would protect civilians from Russian air strikes, but NATO declined, fearing it could trigger a larger war in Europe.

However, NATO forces have repeatedly said they will defend all allied territory and consider an attack on one an attack on all.

“We are studying very effectively what is happening in Ukraine and a lot of lessons [were] learned in this exercise scenario,” Leonid Kalnins, Latvia’s Defense Minister, told CTV National News.

This comes amid growing concern in Latvia that the country, located between Russia and Belarus, could be the next target of the Russian military.

“The current situation helps us focus on our mission and why we are here,” Lieutenant Colonel John Dan Richel with the Latvian task force told CTV National News.

On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Canada and other NATO allies to “step up” defense spending in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Canada has no formal commitments to increase spending. However, in late February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would deploy an additional 460 Armed Forces troops to Latvia.

More than 500 troops are currently deployed in the country, with another 130 expected in the coming weeks.

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