Nearly 2,000 Canadian troops take part in NATO’s largest exercise since Cold War

Members of the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia wait for helicopters in the training area during Exercise TOMAHAWK Soaring at the Lielvārdes Military Base, Latvia on Oct. 3, 2018. (eFP BG ROTO 10 LATVIA Imagery/CAF)
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’
A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet sits in front of a Harden Air Shelter (HAS) in Bodo, Norway on October 20, 2018 in preparation for Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2018. (Cpl. Bryan Carter,/4 Wing Imaging/CAF)

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
Royal Norwegian Navy Skjold-class Corvettes HNOMS Storm and HNMOS Skudd ride alongside the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman during flight operations supporting Exercise Trident Juncture 2018 off the coast of Vestfjordern, Norway October 24, 2018. (Spec. 2nd Class Thomas Gooley/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

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.

U.S. Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conduct cold weather training during NATO’s Exercise Trident Juncture 2018 in Iceland October 19, 2018. Picture taken October 19, 2018. (Capt. Kylee Ashton/U.S. Air Force/Handout via REUTERS)

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:

Canada: Canadian military to build multi-million dollar facility in Northern city, CBC News

Finland: Russia “would see enemies” if Finland joined NATO, president Niinistö tells German paper, Yle News

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

Sweden: Major deal between Sweden’s Saab and U.S. Air Force a “sign of closer transatlantic ties”, says defence expert, Radio Sweden

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

Levon Sevunts, Radio Canada International

Born and raised in Armenia, Levon started his journalistic career in 1990, covering wars and civil strife in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In 1992, after the government in Armenia shut down the TV program he was working for, Levon immigrated to Canada. He learned English and eventually went back to journalism, working first in print and then in broadcasting. Levon’s journalistic assignments have taken him from the High Arctic to Sahara and the killing fields of Darfur, from the streets of Montreal to the snow-capped mountaintops of Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. He says, “But best of all, I’ve been privileged to tell the stories of hundreds of people who’ve generously opened up their homes, refugee tents and their hearts to me.”

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