Centre for International and Defence Policy

Centre for International and Defence Policy
Centre for International and Defence Policy

In The Shadow of Lāčplēsis: NATO Deterrence on the  Eastern Flank

Wednesday, December 4, 2019, 12:00-1:30 pm
Robert Sutherland Hall, room 448 

Now in their 2nd year, the NATO mission has evolved in size and complexity. Paralleling this, the relationship between NATO lead nation Canada and host nation Latvia has grown to meet this emergent challenge. Latvian Ambassador to Canada, Kārlis Eihenbaums, along with Canadian Visiting Defence Fellow, LCol(Ret’d) Steven MacBeth, a former Commander of the eFp Battle Group, will provide perspectives on Canada’s largest international mission. Ambassador Eihenbaums will provide the strategic perspective of Latvia and the prevailing security perspective of the Baltics, the requirement for the mission and ongoing commitment. This strategic aperture will be complemented with the operational perspective of LCol(Ret’d) MacBeth who will share the ground level realities of the forward deployed Battle Group and the compression of the tactical/strategic space in today’s highly visible operations.

NATO Multinational Battlegroup image

Lāčplēsis, the epic Latvian Poem by Andrejs Pumpurs, recounts the life of the legendary Baltic hero. Translated to "Bear-slayer", he kills a bear that is threatening his village by ripping its jaws apart with his bare hands and saving the village.  This story, survives in the mythology of the Latvian Nation and sub conscious of the peoples. It is imagery that speaks to the defence of the Nation from a foreign intruder and a unified and ancient nation that will defend its’ existence against all odds.   With the fall of the Soviet Empire, the establishment of the Latvian state; the legend has been revived to reinforce a baseline of national identity while sending a clear message to any entity who may wish to present a threat.  Now a member of the EU and NATO; the Baltics feel the weight of that history and the requirement to deter and be ready to defend against a resurgent Russia that has demonstrated the ability and willingness to conduct operations against their neighbours that they perceive to be threatening their historical sphere of influence.

With the fall of the Crimea and an ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, there was a call from the Eastern flank of NATO to reinforce prior to a crisis developing. Following the NATO Warsaw Summit in July 2016, NATO nations agreed to participate in a response to the evolving Eastern European security situation.  This response and deployment would come to be known as “Enhanced Forward Presence” (eFP) and would be represented in the land domain with multi-national Battle Groups.  Led by the U.K., Canada, Germany and the United States; these Battle Groups would consist of member nations and would be located in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland respectively.  The forces would be robust enough to assist in the defence of these nations, act as a deterrent and if necessary; the vanguard for follow on NATO Defence Forces in the Baltic region. These forces deployed in 2017 and remain forward deployed at this time with the Canadian Commitment to lead the established until 2023.  


H.E. Kārlis Eihenbaums, Latvian Ambassador to Canada and LCol (Ret'd) Steven MacBeth, Canadian Visiting Defence Fellow