18:12 GMT +316 December 2017
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    A military unit from Canada marches during a military parade marking Polish Armed Forces Day, in Warsaw, Poland (File)

    Canada's Ties With Russia Will Not Be Affected by Ottawa's NATO Activities

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    Canada's decision to establish and lead one of NATO's four framework battalions that will be deployed close to Eastern Europe and the Baltic region to intimidate Russia will have no impact on Moscow and Ottawa's shared desire to improve bilateral relations, analyst Pavel Zolotarev told the Vzglyad newspaper.

    "Clearly, every NATO member does what the United States says," the deputy director of the Moscow-based Institute for US and Canadian Studies said. "NATO is Washington's instrument [of power projection] in Europe and Canada is a major part of this" arrangement.

    Yet Canada's commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty are in no way related to its ties with Russia, he added. The country's relations with Russia improved in the months since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to power.

    "After a decade at daggers drawn, the two largest countries in the world are on speaking terms again. Our government has abandoned Stephen Harper's policy of vocal disdain and the attempted isolation of Russia," Christopher Westdal pointed out.

    Last month, President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow welcomed Ottawa's efforts to restore relations between the two countries "in full" and was ready to "work together" on this task. Canada's former prime minister, Stephen Harper, was extremely critical of Russia, blaming the country for the Ukrainian crisis, although Moscow is not a party to this conflict.

    "I think that we will tell [the Canadians] everything [on NATO's battalion] through diplomatic channels," the analyst noted. "When it comes to the desire to mend [bilateral] relations, it will remain in place. The two [processes] are not and cannot be mutually exclusive."

    Earlier this year, the North Atlantic Alliance announced that it will deploy four multinational battle groups to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the US will be tasked with providing the bulk of personnel for each battalion.

    ​"Thank you, Canada. All four battalions for NATO's east now have a lead nation. Thanks also to Germany, the UK and the US," the bloc's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted, praising the four nations for their "strong transatlantic commitment."

    The measure will be formally approved at NATO's upcoming landmark summit in Warsaw on June 8-9. It is part of a series of steps aimed at enhancing the bloc's military capabilities on its eastern flank in response to what NATO officials view as a threat emanating from Russia.

    For their part, Russian officials have said that the country poses no threat to its neighbors or beyond. Moscow has also repeatedly warned that it views NATO's increased assertiveness as detrimental to its national security and stability in the region.

    Zolotarev echoed this sentiment, saying that the bloc's activities, including Canada's presence in the Baltic region, increase the risk of accidents during war-games turning into crises. "This could lead to fallout. But in general a possibility of a conflict between Russia and NATO is out of the question," he observed.

    The analyst further added that NATO's increased military presence on its eastern flank "is a means of exerting political pressure on Russia."

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    Tags:
    battalion, muscle-flexing, military buildup, bilateral relations, NATO Warsaw Summit 2016, NATO, Justin Trudeau, Vladimir Putin, Baltic Region, Eastern Europe, Canada, Russia
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