NEWS
09/17/2016 11:28 EDT | Updated 09/18/2017 01:12 EDT

NATO's Canadian-led battle group beginning to take shape in Latvia

OTTAWA — Canada's top soldier says several countries have expressed an interest in contributing troops and equipment to a Canadian-led military force in Latvia.

The Liberal government announced in July that Canada would lead one of four multinational NATO forces in Eastern Europe, where the military alliance has been beefing up its presence in response to recent Russian actions.

Speaking to The Canadian Press following a two-day visit to Latvia, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance says the job now is to match up what other countries are willing to provide with what is actually needed to field the 1,000-strong battle group.

Among the countries that have indicated their willingness to participate are Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Spain.

Each sent representatives on a Canadian-led reconnaissance mission to Latvia last month to get a feel for the situation on the ground. Italy has since confirmed its plan to participate.

Vance says Canada will contribute just over 450 troops to the battle group, including a commander, military police, logistical and communications support, as well as an infantry company with light armoured vehicles.

The Canadians will be based at the Adazi military base, about half an hour northeast of the capital Riga.

The first troops will arrive in the spring, but the bulk aren't expected to touch down until next fall.