Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to more than double the size of Canada's contribution to a NATO mission in Latvia, committing $2.6 billion in funding over three years and up to 2,200 Canadian troops for persistent deployment.

He made the announcement in Riga on Monday at a joint press conference with Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, alongside Defence Minister Anita Anand.

"This is the way forward in modern defence," he said. "Almost a dozen countries from across NATO are co-operating, training and working alongside each other and learning valuable lessons from each other that make our collective defence stronger."

About 800 Canadian Armed Forces members are already part of the Canada-led battle group in the Baltic country, making it the country's largest overseas mission.

Trudeau, who also met with Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs Monday, said the additional personnel will reinforce and enhance Canadian land, maritime and air capabilities and support special operations in central and eastern Europe.

The prime minister also promised that Canada would procure and pre-position critical weapon systems and help with intelligence and cyberactivities.

"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," said Trudeau.

Last month, Anand announced that a Leopard 2 tank squadron with 15 tanks and about 130 personnel would join the mission starting this fall.

It's all part of the NATO military alliance's efforts to increase its presence near Russia in response to that country's ongoing assault on Ukraine.

@JustinTrudeau says #Canada will more than double military presence in Latvia. #CDNPoli

The alliance has doubled the number of battle groups in the region since the war began, and has plans to increase the size and scope of some of them to be combat-ready brigades.

A joint road map signed by Anand and her Latvian counterpart sets out three phases for scaling up the Latvia battle group to a brigade, and says they aim to complete the buildup in 2025.

"By 2026, Canada will complete the full implementation of persistently deployed brigade capabilities to Latvia," the document says.

NATO leaders, including Trudeau, are expected to gathering in Lithuania's capital city beginning on Tuesday for their annual summit.

Trudeau was expected to meet with some of the Canadian Armed Forces members who are stationed in Latvia later Monday before departing for Vilnius.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2023.

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