Nearly 2,000 Canadian troops have been deployed to Northern Europe as the alliance kicked off Thursday its largest war games since the end of the Cold War in a show of force intended as a warning to the newly resurgent Russia.
More than 50,000 troops, some 250 aircraft, 65 ships, up to 10,000 vehicles from all 29 NATO countries as well as contingents from the nominally neutral Sweden and Finland are taking part in the massive Exercise Trident Juncture 2018 most of which takes place in Norway.
“Trident Juncture sends a clear message, to our nations and to any potential adversary: NATO does not seek confrontation, but we stand ready to defend all Allies against any threat,” NATO Secretary General said Wednesday.
The NATO exercise comes barely a month after Russia ran its largest war games since the end of the Cold War, involving nearly 300,000 troops in Siberia.
‘A demonstration of our unwavering commitment to NATO’
All three branches of the Canadian military – the Army, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) – are participating in the exercise intended to rehearse the alliance’s response to an attack against Norway, which shares a land and maritime border with Russia.
Canada has dispatched four warships, eight fighter jets, two submarine hunting planes, an air refuelling tanker, and ground troops and support personnel for joint operations.
“Canada’s participation in Exercise Trident Juncture is a demonstration of our unwavering commitment to NATO and the principle of collective defence, as well as maintaining strong relationships with our Allies and partners,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement.
“This large-scale NATO exercise is about ensuring NATO forces are trained and ready to respond to threats against the Alliance.”
The Canadian military ran a three-year joint training program in preparation for the two-week exercise, which will run until Nov. 7, officials said.
Working alongside allies
Canadian forces personnel will operate together with NATO allies as well as the combined force from Sweden and Finland, which have become increasingly worried about Russia’s growing military might and its willingness to use force anywhere from Ukraine to Syria.
However, not to provoke Russia even further the ground portion of the exercise will run in central Norway, about 900 kikometres from the Russian border.
Stoltenberg noted that all members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have been invited to send observers to the war games.
“I welcome that Russia, as well as Belarus have accepted the invitation,” Stoltneberg said, adding that NATO also briefed Russia on the exercise in the NATO-Russia Council earlier this year.
During the exercise, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) troops, along with the other 30 participating nations, will operate under Joint Task Force Norway to exercise the deployment and employment of a multinational force.
The goal of the exercise is to improve national command and control of multi-national joint force operations within a NATO context, said in a statement Lt.-Gen. Michael Rouleau, Commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command.
“Exercise Trident Juncture will demonstrate our solidarity with the NATO Alliance and provide an opportunity for our troops to further develop their skills and enhance the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to operate jointly and with our allies,” Rouleau said.
The CAF contribution for Exercise Trident Juncture 2018 includes:
- Approximately 70 personnel that will form the National Command Element (NCE).
- About 600 personnel from the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) on board two frigates: HMCS Halifax and Ville de Québec; and two smaller Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels: HMCS Summerside and Glace Bay.
- The Canadian Army is deploying approximately 1000 personnel from 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (5 CMBG), consisting of a light infantry battalion and a brigade headquarters.
- The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) will provide a force of more than 270 personnel operating eight CF-18 Hornet fighter jets, two CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft and a CC-150 Polaris air refueling aircraft.
- More than 165 troops will form the Joint Task Force Support Component (JTFSC) to provide a wide range of operational and tactical support, including administration, accommodations, medical, and communications services.
Radio Canada International will be covering the exercise from the ground in central Norway from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3.
Related stories from around the North:
Norway: NATO set to launch massive Trident Juncture war games in southern Norway, air forces to fly above Arctic Europe, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Russia holds anti-submarine drill in Arctic ahead of large NATO exercise in Norway, The Independent Barents Observer
United Kingdom: UK announces new Arctic defence strategy, but who’s the intended audience?, Eye on the Arctic feature interview
United States: New symposium brings U.S. military’s attention to the Arctic, Alaska Public Media