VILNIUS: The military will welcome Ukrainian officer cadets to Canada for an intensive training program developed in partnership with NATO, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.

Trudeau, who was in Vilnius, Lithuania, for the military alliance’s annual leaders’ meeting, said the cadets will be trained at the Royal Military College in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

Trudeau told reporters the Canadian Armed Forces have helped train almost 40,000 Ukrainian military and security personnel through an operation based in Latvia.

He announced the expansion of that mission earlier this week, saying up to 2,200 Armed Forces members will be stationed there in the coming years as the NATO battlegroup ramps up to become a brigade by 2026.

It will spend $2.6 billion over the next three years toward that goal.

“For over 500 days now, Ukraine has withstood Russian brutalities. (Russian President Vladimir) Putin made a grave miscalculation. He underestimated Ukrainians’ courage and he underestimated the strength of the West’s solidarity and resolve,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau said that G7 leaders have separately come together to launch a process “to provide long-term, multi-year commitments to their security.”

He said security guarantees from Canada and allies will send a message.

“Putin wants to wait out and grind down the alliance, grind down Ukrainians, but he’s not going to be able to because we will be there for as long as it takes and that’s what these security assurances are all about.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blasted NATO on Tuesday for failing to set a timeline for when his country can join the military alliance.

Trudeau met Zelenskyy earlier Wednesday, when the Ukrainian president thanked Canada for its support during the war and Trudeau pledged that will continue for as long as it’s needed.

In the context of the NATO meeting, Zelenskyy said Ukraine needs Trudeau’s support, adding he was “sure that we’ll have it.”

NATO leaders also agreed at this week’s summit, which wrapped up on Wednesday, to make two per cent of GDP a minimum target for spending on defence, with one-fifth of that money going toward new equipment and research and development.

Canada’s spending on the military currently stands at just under 1.3 per cent of its economy.

Trudeau was asked whether he can commit to reaching the two per cent mark by the end of the decade. He did not set out a timeline or confirm Canada would meet the target.

“We will continue to look to invest more as necessary to keep Canadians safe and to contribute fully around the world and we’ll continue to follow up on the math,” he said.