The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Harper considers more military in Eastern Europe to counter Putin
WARSAW, Poland - Canada is considering bolstering its long-term military presence in Eastern Europe to counter the long-term threat posed by Russia, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.
Speaking in Warsaw after a meeting with his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk, Harper stressed no decisions had been taken, but clearly signalled Canada is ready to do more.
Harper announced a modest new military commitment to the region and acknowledged U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement a day earlier in Warsaw to bolster U.S. military contributions to the area, and to seek $1 billion from Congress.
Poland has been pushing hard for an increased NATO presence in Eastern Europe in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Obama and Harper are on parallel travels through Europe this week designed to bolster the confidence of Russia's nervous neighbours. Ukraine is not a NATO member, but Poland is, and it is pushing hard for the 28-member military alliance to deploy a more robust military deterrent to the region.
Harper announced Wednesday that Canada will bolster its military forces in the region by deploying a contingent of approximately 75 soldiers for a training exercise to Latvia, who will join the 45 paratroopers already on training manoeuvres in Poland.
The Latvian-bound troops will participate in a U.S.-led exercise dubbed Saber Strike 2014. The Canadian troops will join 2,000 others from nine countries for exercises set for June 9-21 in Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
"We are very much looking at options for additional presence going forward but no decisions have been taken," Harper said.
Harper said the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin pose a long-term threat to the region that won't disappear any time soon.
"I do believe that what is occurring in Russia under President Putin is a serious development with serious long-term consequences that I don't believe we should think for a moment will disappear in the near future," Harper said.
Harper's announcement, coming on the heels of Obama's Tuesday pledge, was warmly welcomed by Tusk, who made it clear it was about time NATO started focusing eastward.
The Polish prime minister said the commitments were "a harbinger of a certain deep correction in terms of what is of key importance to European security," singling out Canada and the United States.
"These are all very strong signs that are announced, perhaps not a breakthrough because we are allies and we've been allies for many years," said Tusk.
"It's not just the provisions of the treaty ... it's not just symbols and words of support but also a bigger-ever-than-before presence of both the assets, equipment and personnel."
Poland said Tuesday that it would increase its defence spending to two per cent of GDP, to meet the target that NATO has set.
That would make Poland only the sixth NATO country to reach that spending level, well ahead of Canada, where current defence spending stands at one per cent of GDP.
Tusk did not reference that apparent imbalance but said he has discussed the issue with Harper and Obama this week.
Tusk said he would "speak with a strong voice" for more NATO presence in Eastern Europe at this fall's alliance summit in Wales.
Harper has heaped unrelenting criticism on Russian actions in Ukraine, calling Putin a threat to world peace for the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, and for instigating the continuing unrest in eastern Ukraine.
After meeting with Tusk, Harper said Russia's "aggressive behaviour" required a sustained and co-ordinated response.
But he said any talk of further sanctions against Russia would take place Thursday in Brussels at the G7 leaders' summit.
Harper said it was important to maintain the level of sanctions already in place, and that "pretty clear criteria" must be agreed on before more are put in place.
Harper congratulated Poland on the 25th anniversary of the nation's emergence from communism. He joined Obama and other world leaders in Warsaw later Wednesday in a major celebration to mark the anniversary.
Obama affirmed NATO's Article 5 — that an attack on one member is an attack on all — in a major speech to dozens of world leaders gathered in Warsaw's historic Royal Castle Square, as crowds filled nearby streets.
"These are not just words ... they're unbreakable commitments," Obama said.
The U.S. president also expressed solidarity with non-NATO Ukraine.
"We stand together because we believe that people and nations have the right to determine their own destiny — that includes the people of Ukraine," Obama said.
"Our free nations will stand united so that further Russian provocations will only mean more isolation and costs for Russia," Obama said.
"Because after investing so much blood and treasure to bring Europe together, we refuse to allow the dark tactics of the 20th century to define the 21st."
Harper had a privileged perch at the events, seated between Tusk and one of his political heroes — Lech Walesa, Poland's ex-leader and the founder of its anti-communist Solidarity movement. Wednesday's ceremonies marked Poland's first free elections that brought Solidarity to power.
Obama also met Ukraine's new president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, who was in Warsaw this week for the Polish celebrations.
Harper will also return to Ukraine on Saturday to attend Poroshenko's formal swearing in.
Harper was to depart for Brussels later Thursday. On Friday, he will take the 70th anniversary ceremonies of the Normandy invasion in France.
Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
(1 of 41 articles for today)7:29 PM 0
WHISTLER, B.C. - The Arctic may be a hot commodity, with remarkable resource and tourism opportunities, but a conference has ...
Photo Store Gallery
- RCMP in New Brunswick completes investigation in python deaths, now with Crown
- Edmonton drug dealers handing out cocaine samples to potential customers
- Survivor of plane crash, family of dead passenger still seeking damages from airline
- Can you keep a secret? Edmonton couple reveals $50M lotto win after 7 months
- Protesters denounce Israeli offensive in Gaza, call on Harper to support peace
- Death of a Quebec mayor from insect stings underscores need to be prepared
- Canada's border agency had thousands of outdated lookout flags in system
- List of charities undergoing tax audits related to political activities
- Fruit from California recalled due to possible Listeria contamination
- Suspect in Calgary stabbings sent to mental hospital for assessment
- RCMP charge Sen. Mike Duffy with fraud, breach of trust and bribery
- Ontario medical student, girlfriend among passengers of doomed Malaysian flight
- Conservative party president's 7-year-old daughter hit by minivan, killed
- Mayor of Montreal-area community dies after being stung by wasps
- Police investigate suspicious death at Pemberton, B.C. Music Festival
- Canadian teacher detained in Jakarta jail on accusations of child sexual assault
- Duffy accused of charging for personal trainer, makeup artist, funeral travel
- Big Lake Ontario shark hoax shows risks posed by viral marketing, experts say
- New report questions Canadian Ukraine election monitoring missions
- Cdns at odds with Harper gov't priorities: Finance Canada focus-group report
- Family of missing boy, grandparents won't give up on finding them alive
- Moms change diapers, Dads form leaders: Justice minister's emails to staff
- Calgary police confirm violent incident in case of missing boy, grandparents
- $20,000 per person:Activists push for guaranteed minimum income for Canadians
- 'We're lucky to have her in our lives;' baby survives crash that killed mother
- Suspect in case of missing grandparents and child to make court appearance
- Investigators bring in boat in search near Calgary-area acreage in missing family case
- Calgary police say there are other leads in case of missing boy, grandparents
- Ex-wife of B.C. homicide victim says man conned her; both appeared on Dr. Phil
- Police say search near Airdrie part of probe into missing Calgary residents
Ads by Google