Good morning, everybody, and thank you, Chair.
Not so many hours have passed since yesterday's dinner. I'll try to emphasize some of the points we talked about yesterday, because I think it's very important that notes are taken and recordings are recorded. In our committee, every session is recorded, and it's available to the general public on request. Anybody can request a recording and receive that. We're used to working in such an environment, and we appreciate this very much.
First of all, before coming to Canada, my staff prepared a report on our relationship with Canada in general, but mostly about security issues. It was very interesting to read. It's kind of going back in history. My first degree is in history, and looking at how our relations developed over time, believe me, up to the year 2016, there were only two paragraphs. One of was them about how Canada became the first nation to ratify accession of Latvia to NATO. Thank you so much, once more, for this.
The second one was about Canada's offering our young officers extensive studies of English and French, which actually were very useful. I know many officers who have been here for that training. It's interesting enough that people came here to learn French more than they went to France to learn French. We use these officers now in our mission to Mali, so it's really useful.
Modern history starts in 2016 on June 30 when your government took a decision to be a leading or framework nation for NATO's enhanced forward presence mission in Latvia. That's when you start reading events that take place almost on a daily basis or on a weekly basis, different meetings, planning, people going back and forth, and agreements reached and signed.
Imagine this. There was decision your government took on June 30, and your troops and all the equipment necessary were there in Latvia on June 18, 2017. It took less than a year to move 450 men and women and necessary equipment to Latvia. Only two months passed, and Canada was a leading framework nation there, and, together with other partners, is fully certified as a battalion in Latvia.
I think it's a great success; a great success on the part of NATO and all the countries who reached these decisions in Wales and Warsaw. It also was possible because of your country and the people involved, starting with politicians and the Minister of Defence, and ending with ordinary soldiers who came to Latvia. I think you prepared very well, and now we're already in the second phase, second rotation, and in my view, things are going really well.
Latvia has the biggest NATO mission among three Baltic States and Poland. Interestingly enough, there are more troops in Latvia than in Poland, and Poland itself, who is receiving this help or assistance, has around 200 men and tanks in Latvia. This also shows that it's not only about receiving, it's also about giving. Latvia is the same; we're involved in six missions abroad. Our people, at this time, are serving in Afghanistan, Mali, Iraq, and other missions, so we try to do our best and not just receive help, but also, where we have expertise and knowledge, give it back where it's necessary for our partners, our allies, and NATO in general.
On our part, it was also very challenging, because, as a host nation, we had to put a lot of effort and money to accommodate troops from six different nations. That involved a lot of construction at our biggest military base near Riga Adaži, which is the biggest military training ground in the Baltics.
During the last year, we actually expanded this training ground, so it's even bigger. We spent a lot of money constructing new barracks, so your officers and soldiers are now under roofs since the fall of last year. We are going to construct four more barracks there: two will be fully funded by our budget money and two will be co-financed with Americans.
I'm not going to go deep into these logistical projects, but we have done as much as possible to make your army stay in Latvia not only welcome but useful for your army, because they are staying in the biggest military polygon. They're not just sleeping in the barracks, waking up, doing something, and being just there. No, they are training. They are training together with all the six nations, with Latvians very much involved.
Maybe one thing for the future, and I know there have been talks, but it would be very useful if you were to ask me to suggest something. We started this some years ago with the Americans, and it turned out to be very good. The Americans wanted to test some of their drones in Latvia. For that reason, we had to change some laws, and actually we did. We built airways around Latvia where these drones could fly around. Talking to the American officers there, I found out that this was something they didn't even have in Texas, the kind of territorial possibilities to actually get training, and fly drones close to the border, of course, with Russia.
This is something that maybe could be useful for you. I was surprised. I don't know what kind of situation you have. The Americans have plenty of land, but it turns out that the airspace where they can use these drones is limited, actually, to specific places like military installations, or something. We, in a very quick manner, changed our laws and regulations, and now it's possible. There are special free airways all around Latvia where you can use drones. I think it would be very interesting for your military people.
Another thing that Latvia set up in 2014, with the assistance of NATO, was the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence. With the geopolitical situations today in the world, and Russian disinformation, and different developments in this field, this has become very useful.
Canada has been involved in this centre of excellence since the beginning, has invested money, and has always had its representatives working in Riga. Right now, there are two Canadians working there. Imagine that this NATO centre of excellence is not working specifically for Latvia. We sometimes laugh that they are not doing enough for Latvia, because they have developed different algorithms to see where the news is coming from on social networks, where our boats are are involved, and where Russia is involved.
They have algorithms, of course, in English and sometimes in Russian, but Latvia is a small nation and a language not spoken widely is not used in this centre of excellence. Anyway, we can learn from what they have found in their studies, and the people working there are really good. It's somewhere also to invest and to get results from.
Maybe I'll stop there. I'm not so good at making long speeches. I'm ready to answer all your questions.