Will Canadian troops be sent to Ukraine to engage in combat?

A key component of Canada’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the commitment of more military troops in neighbouring NATO countries, but the government has maintained these personnel would be deployed for deterrence and training purposes only.

Is there a circumstance where Canadian troops would engage in combat in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member but is a close ally of the West?

Defence Minister Anita Anand says at this time, no.

“There [are] no plans at the current time to have Canadian Armed Forces engaged in a combat mission in Ukraine,” she told CTV News Channel’s Power Play on Thursday.

She said the purpose of the two relevant military missions in Eastern Europe, Operation UNIFIER and Operation REASSURANCE, are for training and deterrence purposes respectively.

Canadian troops, under Operation UNIFIER, have trained more than 35,000 of their Ukrainian counterparts to help them properly defend themselves against eventualities like the one faced today.

Vice-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie, Commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command, confirmed later in the day that all personnel under that mission have been relocated to Poland.

“I can assure you that contingency planning for these relocated personnel continues within this very volatile situation. Some of these personnel have begun to return to Canada, while others will remain in Poland at the ready to support contingency operations and our partners in Global Affairs Canada, if required,” he said during a technical briefing about the government’s response to Russia’s attack.

The government announced on Tuesday that an additional 460 troops would be sent to Latvia as part of Operation REASSURANCE, to “reinforce” Canada’s commitment to NATO and bolster its presence in the region.

On Thursday, Anand announced that another 3,400 troops are on standby to assist with the NATO Response Force if necessary.

“We’ve constantly demonstrated in short, our support for our allies and our partners in the face of authoritarianism, and such aggression,” she said.

“Canadian Armed Forces are ready to assist with the whole of government efforts in this region.”

Asked what the threshold is to send the additional troops to Europe, Auchterlonie said it will be up to the direction of NATO leadership.

“It would be a pull from NATO based on where they’re at,” he said, adding that right now NATO forces are in “deterrence” mode, but what follows is “shield” and then “defend.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated on Thursday during a press briefing that the North Atlantic Council has no intention of sending in troops.

“We don’t have any plans to send NATO troops into Ukraine. But we are there to protect and defend all NATO allies. So we support Ukraine, we provide absolute security guarantees for NATO allies. We demonstrate that commitment by increasing the presence in the Eastern part of the alliance,” he said.

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