The Canadian Armed Forces had maintained a high-profile military presence in Europe since the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. Canada's NATO forces in Europe had been reduced by 50 per cent in the summer of 1970. These reductions, which had been announced without consultation with Canada's NATO allies in 1969, marked a very significant change in Canadian military and foreign affairs policy. The Cold War was at its very height during this period, and Canada had been devoting a considerable portion of the federal budget to national defence. The previous focus of national defence had been the deterrence of Soviet expansion through collective security arrangements such as Canada's modest participation in NATO and NORAD. In reducing its NATO forces, however, Canada marginalized its voice in that organization. In hopes of addressing this problem and regaining combat credibility for its soldiers and airmen, Canada gradually increased the size of our NATO contingents in the 1970s and 1980s. Canada replaced its solid but aging Centurion tanks with new Leopard tanks in 1976, and significant increases in the troop ceilings in Europe occurred in 1978 and again in the 1980s. By the end of the 1980s, existing equipment such as the M113A1 armoured personnel carriers and M109 self-propelled 155mm howitzers were replaced with brand new models (M113s) or upgraded extensively (M109s). Canada thus played a significant part in the NATO buildup that took place during the 1980s in response to a seemingly more aggressive stance by the Soviet bloc. This last phase of the Cold War led to the fall of the Soviet Union and an end to the communist domination of eastern Europe. Subsequent to the demise of the Soviet threat, reductions in the defence budget led to a gradual decrease in the size of the Canadian Armed Forces.

The Canadian contingent left its bases in Baden and Lahr, Germany, on 30 July 1993. The army units were reduced to cadres for training the militia, a most unfortunate step as Canada was deploying thousands of troops on so-called peacekeeping missions in the Balkan civil wars between 1992-1995. The CF-18 squadrons similarly disbanded, and their fighters were assigned to Canadian-based squadrons in Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Cold Lake in Alberta and CFB Bagotville, Quebec. At the same time, Minister of Defence Marcel Masse, announced that Canada would purchase 228 Coyote armoured reconnaissance vehicles and 50 EH-101 helicopters to replace the obsolescent Sea Kings and Labradors. Canada's withdrawal of its NATO troops from Europe undermined to some degree its influence and reputation among its allies but not nearly so much as the nuclear weapons fiasco of the 1960s and the unilateral reductions and redeployment of 1970.

 

Copyright © 2015 The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum
Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre
10440 - 108 Ave, Edmonton