Defence Minister Bill Blair concludes visit to Europe for Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, NATO Defence Ministerial, and Munich Security Conference

News release

February 18, 2024 – Munich, Germany – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

Today, the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, concluded a successful trip to NATO Headquarters in Belgium and Munich, Germany. During his trip, the Minister participated in the 19th Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG) meeting and a meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels, Belgium. Minister Blair then attended the 60th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany. During his trip, Minister Blair emphasized Canada’s steadfast solidarity with Ukraine, unbreakable commitment to NATO, and support for the rules-based international order that underpins global security.

On February 14, Minister Blair announced that Canada will make a contribution of $60 million to the UDCG Air Force Capability Coalition. This donation will support the setup of a sustainable F-16 fighter aircraft capability in Ukraine by sourcing vitally needed F-16 supplies and equipment such as spare parts, weapons stations, avionics, and ammunition.

On February 15, Minister Blair participated in a Meeting of NATO Defence Ministers and announced that Canada is acquiring new capabilities for its troops in Latvia. Canada is investing $227.5 million with Saab Canada to acquire the RBS 70 NG Air Defence System and $46 million to acquire new counter-drone equipment. These new capabilities will start to arrive this year and will be deployed with Canadian Armed Forces members in Latvia, where Canada leads NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group.

At NATO HQ in Brussels, Minister Blair held productive meetings with:

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Minister Blair reiterated Canada’s unbreakable commitment to NATO and support for Ukraine – and highlighted that Canada’s defence investments are set to increase by over seventy percent, continuing our upward trajectory.
  • Germany’s Defence Minister Boris Pistorius. Minister Blair and Minister Pistorius discussed our close collaboration to support Ukraine, and the leadership of both Canada and Germany in contributing to the security of NATO’s Eastern Flank by leading enhanced Forward Presence Battle Groups in Latvia and Lithuania respectively.
  • Latvia’s Defence Minister, Andris Spruds. Minister Blair provided an update on new Canadian procurements to better equip the Canada-led Battle Group in Latvia, and the Ministers discussed our plans to expand the Battle Group to a brigade.
  • Defence Ministers Hanno Pevkur of Estonia; Boris Pistorius of Germany, Andris Spruds of Latvia, Arvydas Anusauskas of Lithuania, and Grant Shapps of the United Kingdom. The six Ministers discussed the ongoing expansion of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence on its Eastern Flank, where Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom lead multinational battle groups in the Baltic countries.
  • Czechia’s Defence Minister Jana Černochová. The two Ministers signed a Canada-Czechia Defence Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding, which will establish a framework for cooperation and outlines how Canada and Czechia will work collaboratively to strengthen our relationship in several bilateral and multilateral areas – including support for Ukraine.
  • Sweden’s Defence Minister Pal Jonson. Minister Blair reiterated Canada’s support for Sweden’s accession to NATO without delay, and warmly welcomed Sweden’s intention to contribute troops to the Canadian-led NATO battle group in Latvia.

At the 60th Munich Security Conference, Minister Blair participated in a roundtable discussion on Arctic Security in Times of Contestation and continued bilateral and multilateral discussions with his counterparts. Minister Blair attended meetings with:

  • ·The Cohen Group, where – alongside General Christopher Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe – the Minister reiterated Canada’s commitment to the NATO Alliance and rules-based international order in the face of current and emerging threats.
  • Allied and partner Defence Ministers at a working luncheon hosted by German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius and the German Federal Ministry of Defence.
  • Denmark’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen. Minister Blair thanked the Deputy Prime Minister for Denmark’s contribution of troops to the Canadian-led Battle Group in Latvia and expressed gratitude for Denmark’s leadership of the UDCG Air Force Capability Coalition. Minister Blair and his counterpart expressed interest in further developing Canada-Denmark defence cooperation as NATO Allies and fellow Arctic nations.
  • United Kingdom Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps. Minister Blair and Secretary Shapps condemned the Houthis’ unacceptable attacks in the Red Sea and Russia’s ongoing, illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. Minister Blair and Secretary Shapps discussed the strong Canada-U.K. collaboration to support Ukraine through the U.K.’s Operation INTERFLEX and Canada’s Operation UNIFIER, and also discussed security issues in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Montenegro’s Defence Minister Dragan Krapović. Minister Blair thanked Minister Krapović for Montenegro’s contribution of troops to the Canadian-led NATO Battle Group in Latvia, and reiterated Canada’s support of Montenegro’s EU accession aspirations.
  • Portugal’s Defence Minister Helena Carreiras. The Ministers discussed ways to increase defence cooperation between Canada and Portugal, support for Ukraine, and our shared commitment to advancing the Women, Peace, and Security agenda.
  • Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng En Hen. Minister Blair reiterated that through Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, Canada is substantively increasing its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region by deploying additional personnel and warships, and noted that Canada looks forward to increasing defence cooperation with ASEAN nations like Singapore.
  • Greece’s Defence Minister Nikos Dendias. Minister Blair thanked Minister Dendias for Greece’s collaboration during Operation ION – the Canadian Armed Forces’ operation in Fall 2023 to assist Canadians with departure from Israel. Thanks to Greece’s collaboration, Canadian military aircraft safely transported approximately 1,600 passengers from Tel Aviv to Athens. Minister Blair and Minister Dendias also discussed the importance of freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, and the NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence.
  • Albania’s Defence Minister Niko Peleshi. Minister Blair and Minister Peleshi discussed a range of security issues in the Western Balkans, as well as the NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence. Minister Blair thanked Albania for its contribution of personnel to the Canada-led NATO Battle Group in Latvia.
  • Malaysia’s Defence Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin. Minister Blair noted Canada’s increasing military presence in the Indo-Pacific through its Indo-Pacific Strategy, and noted Canada’s interest in increasing its defence relationships with ASEAN nations like Malaysia.


“As Russia continues its unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine, it is vital that NATO Allies and partners from around the world work together to protect the rules-based international order. Our work over the past few days will help to preserve the international rules that keep us all safe, and strengthen international support for Ukraine. In today’s rapidly evolving security environment, Canada will remain a strong contributor to security in the Euro-Atlantic region and around the globe.”

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence

Quick facts

  • The UDCG was created by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III in April 2022 for allies and partners to synchronize donations, consult, and coordinate military assistance to Ukraine, and build the capabilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU). Regularly convening at the ministerial level, the UDCG now brings together more than 50 countries.

  • NATO is a cornerstone of Canada’s international security policy. Canada steadfastly supports NATO’s principle of collective defence and is providing direct support to NATO missions and operations to this end. To advance Euro-Atlantic security, NATO Defence Ministers typically meet three times per year, in March, June, and October.

  • Current Canadian contributions to NATO include:

    • leading the multinational NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia;
    • providing support to NATO maritime forces through the deployment of Royal Canadian Navy vessels in European waters, including the currently-deployed HMCS Charlottetown;
    • providing advisory support on institutional reforms to build lasting security and stability through NATO Mission Iraq; and
    • providing CAF personnel support to the NATO-led international peace support operation in Kosovo through Operation KOBOLD.
  • Approximately 1,000 CAF sailors, soldiers, aviators, and special forces members are currently participating in NATO’s Exercise Steadfast Defender 24. This is the largest NATO exercise in decades that will serve to rehearse NATO’s Deterrence and Defence plans to counter threats to the Euro-Atlantic area.

  • The Munich Security Conference, one of the world’s leading annual fora on international security and defence policy, brings together world leaders, senior politicians and leading representatives from academia, industry, non-governmental organizations, and civil society to discuss current events and pressing issues related to global security.

  • Canada further contributes to Euro-Atlantic security through our support to Ukraine. Operation UNIFIER is the CAF’s military training and capacity building mission in support of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU). Since 2015, Canada has trained approximately 40,000 members of the AFU under Operation UNIFIER. More than 300 CAF members are deployed under Operation UNIFIER in various roles, including to provide and coordinate training, and to facilitate and deliver military donations to Ukraine in coordination with Allies.

Associated links


Diana Ebadi
Press Secretary and Communications Advisor
Office of the Minister of National Defence

Media Relations
Department of National Defence
Phone: 613-904-3333

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