July 10, 2018 / 9:15 AM / 2 months ago

Canada's NATO troops will stay in Latvia for another four years: Trudeau

RIGA (Reuters) - Canada will extend its military presence in Latvia by four years, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday during a visit to Riga a day before a NATO summit.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a joint news conference with Latvia's Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis (not pictured) in Riga, Latvia July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

The three small Baltic states - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all NATO members since 2004 - share borders and an uneasy relationship with Russia that has grown increasingly tense in the wake of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

Canada has deployed 455 Canadian troops to Latvia, part of a NATO battlegroup there that also includes troops from Italy, Spain, Poland and Slovakia.

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Trudeau said the Canadian contingent would grow to 540 and stay on for another four years after its current mission ends in 2019.

“We remain unwavering in our support to security in the Baltic region,” Trudeau told at a news conference.

NATO members face a nervy summit in Brussels on July 11-12 after U.S. President Donald Trump’s pressure on member states to dramatically raise their military spending. [nL8N1U038R]

Two senior NATO diplomats told Reuters they are prepared for a worst-case scenario that Trump would announce a freeze on U.S. military exercises or withdraw troops from the Baltics.

Reporting by Gederts Gelzis; writing by Niklas Pollard and Johan Ahlander

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