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"Numbers up to 1,000 are sustainable for many years." Peacekeeping missions, or peace operations as the government now calls them, would likely draw heavily from the regular army.

Hainse said the army is broken into three different brigades of about 5,000 soldiers who rotate through a 36-month training cycle.

"The NATO commitment puts a strain on the number of forces that are available for UN deployments but I think we can do both," Dorn said.

The benchmark for what's sustainable for a Canadian Forces mission is essentially 3,000 military members deployed abroad at any given time, said Dorn, who cites the fact that a pool of 3,000 was needed for any given rotation to Kandahar in recent years, while a record 3,300 Forces members served in UN peacekeeping missions in the early 1990s.

The government's decision last week to contribute 450 soldiers, light armoured vehicles and other equipment to Latvia to a 1,000-strong multinational NATO force has raised questions about whether the Canadian Forces can still make good on mounting a major UN peacekeeping mission.