By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - Canada will expand its diplomatic presence with full embassies in Eastern Europe and increase troops in Latvia, officials said Wednesday.
The numbers have not been released but Canada Defense Minister Anita Anand agreed with NATO allies to send more troops to the 2,000-soldier battlegroup it leads in Latvia.
The announcement was made at the NATO Summit in Madrid. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also at the summit.
It is part of an overall boost in troops to the NATO contingents in the Baltics, effectively doubling the numbers of eight battlegroups to between 3,000 and 5,000 troops. Canada joins Germany and Britain where officials said earlier they were prepared to lead larger battlegroups in the area.
Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, who is at the summit, announced Canada will upgrade its offices in Estonia, Lithuania and Slovakia to full embassies. Canada will also open a full embassy in Armenia, she said.
The troop increase and the establishment of full embassies are seen as deterrents to further Russian aggression as Moscow has shown with its military operation in Ukraine.
"Transatlantic security is critical to international stability," Joly said in a statement.
"Russia’s illegal, unjustifiable and horrific invasion of Ukraine has changed the security and diplomatic landscape in Europe, and Canada needs to respond strategically,” she said.
"Building on Canada’s strong relationship with its European partners, the changes announced today will help ensure that we have the tools we need to reinforce Armenian democracy and address some of the greatest security and diplomatic challenges of our time. As a great diplomatic power Canada needs to be on the ground, connected and engaged,” Joly added.