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Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits HMCS Fredericton in Gdansk, Poland, Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Canadian Armed Forces personnel will be stationed at a NATO command centre in Poland as a defence against Russian aggression. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits HMCS Fredericton in Gdansk, Poland, Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Canadian Armed Forces personnel will be stationed at a NATO command centre in Poland as a defence against Russian aggression. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canada to station troops at NATO command centre in Poland Add to ...

Canada is contributing Canadian Armed Forces personnel to a NATO command centre being set up in Poland as a defence against further Russian aggression and is considering further commitments such as joining a rapid-reaction force being formed by the military alliance.

Stephen Harper announced the deployment of senior Canadian officers to the Szczecin, Poland-based NATO headquarters during a visit to Warsaw Tuesday, during which he met with Polish leadership to discuss security measures NATO allies are putting in place to counter the threat of Russian expansionism in Europe.

Defence Minister Jason Kenney also says he’s considering whether to contribute soldiers to a spearhead NATO reaction force that could very quickly send troops into hot spots in Europe or other facets of the military alliance’s response to Russia.

Mr. Kenney said he’s deliberating on what else Canada could do and will discuss the matter at an upcoming NATO meeting.

“I am in meetings with senior military advisers just in the past week on that question and there is a NATO defence ministers’ meeting on June 24 and 25 in Brussels, where that will be discussed,” Mr. Kenney told reporters in Warsaw.

The NATO Multinational Corps Northeast, with its headquarters in Szczecin, is part of North Atlantic Treaty Organization plans announced last September to shore up readiness along the military alliance’s eastern flank.

Another part of this NATO action plan is an ultrarapid reaction force of 4,000 to 5,000 troops designed to deploy within 48 hours and make the alliance’s presence felt in a crisis zone even before hostilities explode. It includes permanent supply hubs and forward operating bases across Eastern Europe.

A new NATO mission would add to a host of other commitments for the Canadian military.

Canada has six CF-18s bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria and two surveillance planes monitoring the battle from the air as well as one air refuelling plane. About 600 personnel are supporting this work from Kuwait.

The military also has nearly 70 special-forces soldiers training peshmerga fighters in their battle against Islamic State forces.

There are about 200 soldiers conducting training with NATO allies in Central and Eastern Europe and Canada has contributed one frigate to the NATO reassurance mission as well.

Mr. Harper’s Polish trip didn’t go entirely as planned Tuesday.

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz spilled the beans on a top-secret visit that Mr. Harper was making to a Canadian warship in the Baltic Sea Tuesday in a diplomatic faux pas that undid plans by the Conservative government to keep it under wraps for operational security.

Ms. Kopacz scooped Mr. Harper’s Baltic Sea plans during a public appearance with him at a Polish palace in Warsaw on Tuesday.

“You may want to know the Prime Minister is going to Gdansk … where he will be visiting the Canadian frigate participating in the military exercises,” Ms. Kopacz told a press conference.

The Canadian military and Mr. Harper’s Prime Minister’s Office had been trying to keep the Canadian leader’s visit to HMCS Fredericton a secret until after it was concluded and had warned media covering Mr. Harper that to report on it ahead of time would jeopardize the security of both the warship and the Prime Minister.

HMCS Fredericton, the Canadian frigate in the Baltic, has been conducting exercises in European waters as part of NATO’s efforts to reassure alliance members along its eastern edge that they will be protected in the event of further Russian aggression in Europe.

Captain John Hart is one of more than 200 Canadian soldiers based in northwestern Poland right now. He’s with Papa Company of the 3rd Battalion with the Royal Canadian Regiment, a light infantry battalion.

He said the training was highly successful, as Canadians impart lessons on planning, shooting and co-ordinating elements on the battlefield.

“They’re coming a long way. They have an old-school mentality, very Warsaw Pact-oriented, and they’re not quite up to the same speed as Western armies [but] you can see the leaps and bounds they’ve made,” Capt. Hart said. “Our presence demonstrates that Canada is not forgetting its NATO allies … and it has a great impact on their view of how the future will unfold.”

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