Canada May Increase Military Presence in Europe, Harper Says

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his country is considering building up its military presence in Europe as the region faces a growing threat from Russia.

Harper, speaking at a joint press conference in Warsaw with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, said he’s encouraged by President Barack Obama’s pledge yesterday to bolster the U.S. military’s presence in Europe, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “militarism” is a long-term concern.

“We are very much looking at options for additional presence going forward but no decisions have yet been taken,” Harper said. “I do believe that what is occurring in Russia under President Putin is a serious development with serious long-term consequences that I don’t believe we should think for a moment will disappear in the near future.”

Poland and other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that share borders with Russia are seeking a bigger NATO military presence on their territory. Germany and France are leading opposition to any swift moves to create permanent bases in former Soviet satellites. NATO has beefed up Baltic air policing, yet much military assistance to the alliance’s eastern flank has been bilateral.

Harper, who will be traveling to Kiev on June 7 to attend the swearing in ceremony of Ukraine President-elect Petro Poroshenko, announced today that Canada will be increasing its participation in a U.S.-led military training exercise currently taking place in Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Lithuania.

Harper will also attend the summit of Group of Seven leaders that begins later today in Brussels.