With tensions in Eastern Europe increasing, and paranoia that Russia will move to expand its territory into the Baltics, NATO is drastically increasing its presence in Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, and Estonia.
Canada is at the forefront of that build-up. On Friday, Canada's Minister of National Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan announced that Canada would be contributing some 450 troops, six CF-18 fighter jets, and a frigate from the navy would all be a part of its NATO commitment to the mission.
But Russia, which itself has been amassing ever-greater number of troops along its borders, isn't taking kindly to the defensive measures.
"Russia is in no way presenting a threat to anyone," reads a statement from the spokesperson for the Russian embassy in Ottawa. "However, we see this is a challenge and will find a necessary means to respond to it."
This week, Bloomberg reported that Russia has moved to add some 10,000 additional troops to its Western border with Estonia and Latvia — five times higher than the number committed by NATO in those two countries. That doesn't include any troops that may be stationed in Belarus.
Stephen Blank, a Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, argued in January that all of this movement is part of a broader scheme by the Kremlin to bring the Baltics under its umbrella.
"Russia has many advantages in the Baltics. The situation of Russians there, particularly in Estonia and Latvia where many Russians remain non-citizens, provides Moscow with an issue with which to stoke tensions," Blank contends.
"Federal Security Services have also devoted considerable attention to recruiting Baltic businessmen, politicians, and former members of their ranks. Russian intelligence penetration of these states is at a high level, as is its media influence. And it dominates the supply of energy and electricity to the Baltic states, and has not hesitated to use that leverage to influence these nations."
Moscow, in a statement targetting the Canadian government, has totally rejected the fears of a Russian push west-ward as shadowboxing.
Russia Embassy in Canada comment on decision to deploy #NATO forces in Latvia. #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/q9MNx1P3rH
— RussianEmbassyCanada (@RussianEmbassyC)July 8, 2016
"Once again, these actions are reminiscent of Cold war saber-rattling, we would emphasize that they are a complete waste of money and resources," the Russian embassy said.
Canada's announcement was made during a NATO summit wrestling with this very question.
After the summit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is heading to Ukraine to sign a free trade deal with Kyiv, and to work out a defensive pact that could allow Ottawa to approve weapons sales to the embattled country.
Canada has been running training missions in Eastern Europe and Ukraine for more than a year, after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
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