Wings Magazine

News
RCAF to remain in Eastern Europe for rest of year

May 7, 2014, Ottawa - Canadian military forces in Eastern Europe are expected to remain in the region until at least the end of the year, and could spend some time in Ukraine, as NATO digs in against Russia.


May 7, 2014
By The Ottawa Citizen

On Tuesday, Canadian defence chief Gen. Tom Lawson and NATO’s top
commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove, provided some answers about what
Canada is doing in Europe as the latter wrapped up a two-day trip to
Ottawa.

 

Breedlove said the NATO forces that assembled in response
to Russian actions in Ukraine are to be sustained through Dec. 31,
though that could change depending on what alliance leaders decide when
they meet in September.

Advertisment

 

Canada has contributed six CF-18 fighter
jets and a naval frigate plus about 600 military personnel in recent
weeks as NATO has moved to reassure Eastern European allies worried
about Russia’s broader intentions.

 

Questions have surrounded the
deployments, including exactly how long the forces will remain overseas,
what they will be doing, and even whether the fighter jets are armed.

 

Lawson
revealed the CF-18s are not flying with weapons — they are training out
of their airbase in Romania — and are not patrolling against Russian
aircraft or other threats.

 

“The fighters are not armed,” he said. “They’re entirely in a training mode.”

 

“They
always arrive, as much of our equipment does, as will the ship, ready
to be armed as required should any conditions change,” Lawson said.

 

“But these are all training activities right now.”

 

The
Canadian defence chief also said HMCS Regina will not arrive in the
eastern Mediterranean to join with other NATO warships until at least
mid-May.

 

At the same time, about 50 Edmonton-based soldiers doing
parachute training alongside U.S. and Polish counterparts in Poland have
been told they should prepare to stay 30 to 60 days. Even then, Lawson
said, they could end up being gone longer.

 

“This is a platoon-plus
that has been jumping into Poland, and they’ll continue to carry out
jump and infantry exercises for the next several weeks until it becomes
exactly clear when that training mission will end,” Lawson said.

 

The government had initially said they would finish in Poland on May 9.

 

Lawson
also indicated the Canadian forces could participate in an annual
U.S.-led training exercise called Rapid Trident scheduled to take place
in Ukraine in July.

 

“I don’t have the numbers,” Lawson said in
response to a question about Canada’s contribution to Rapid Trident,
“but I’m not sure if it’s been completely determined what the totality
of our contributions to that exercise will be.”

 

During the news
conference at National Defence headquarters, Breedlove reiterated his
assertion that recent Russian actions had altered the security situation
in Europe.

 

Asked if NATO allies should consider the permanent
positioning of forces in the region, as was the case during the Cold
War, he replied, “I think this is something we have to consider.”

 

The
two military commanders appeared together as fierce fighting between
nationalist and pro-Russian forces continued to rage in eastern Ukraine,
with dozens killed over the past few days.

 

Western and Russian diplomats, meanwhile, were at loggerheads over Ukraine’s plans to hold a presidential election on May 25.

 

Breedlove
said the Ukrainian government “faces a difficult situation, dealing
with well-armed forces that remain in control of various facilities” and
that the presence of 40,000 Russian troops on the country’s border is
“not helping matters.”

 

“As we move forward, NATO will continue to
support a diplomatic solution to this crisis,” he added, “while ensuring
that we are prepared to meet any threat to alliance populations and
territory.”