RIGA - There are around 1,400 foreign NATO soldiers serving in Latvia at the moment, and the number is expected to further increase.
The Canada-led multinational NATO battle group is 1,300 strong. The battle group, stationed at Adazi military base, is made up of Canadian, Albanian, Czech, Italian, Polish, Slovakian, Slovenian and Spanish soldiers. The battalion is supported by different fighting vehicles and tanks, the Defense Ministry's Press Department told LETA.
The goal of NATO Enhanced Forward Presence is to protect and reassure NATO's eastern member states of their security and to deter any possible aggression against NATO eastern member countries. The multinational NATO battle group arrived in Latvia in June 2017.
Following the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the United States was sending, on a rotational basis, different units to Latvia, including with heavy equipment. After the multinational NATO battalion arrived in Latvia, the United States' presence was reduced and at the moment there are 70 U.S. soldiers with five Black Hawk helicopters serving at Lielvarde Air Force Base, the ministry said.
NATO Force Integration Unit in Riga was established in 2015. Half of 40 positions at the unit are filled by representatives from 12 NATO countries - Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Turkey, Great Britain and the United States, and the other half by Latvian personnel.
The number of allied troops deployed to Latvia is expected to further increase in the future. As reported, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a visit to Riga in early July that Canada would extend its leadership of the NATO battle group based in Latvia for another four years until March 2023, and increase the number of Canadian troops in Latvia from 455 to 540.
The defense ministers of Latvia, Denmark, Estonia, Canada, Great Britain and Lithuania earlier this month signed a letter of intent on the establishment of the headquarters of NATO Multinational Division North. The headquarters' framework nations are Denmark, Estonia and Latvia.
The division headquarters will be tasked with having a continuous operational overview of the developments in the region, commanding the brigades subordinated to it, coordinating, planning and synchronizing training exercises and operations with different authorities and neighboring units. It will be also tasked with conducting the training of the units subordinated to it and ensuring comprehensive support for them.