Centre for International and Defence Policy

Centre for International and Defence Policy
Centre for International and Defence Policy

“Canada 'slightly delinquent' on defence spending, Trump says at NATO gathering”

Murray Brewster, CBC Online
3 December 2019 (link to the complete article)


Canada is "slightly delinquent" when it comes to meeting NATO's target for spending on defence, U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday on the eve of the military alliance's 70th anniversary celebrations.

He seemed ready to go easy on Ottawa, however — telling journalists in a wide-ranging news conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this morning that he's confident Canada will boost its military spending.

Trump has demanded that all NATO allies meet the benchmark of spending two per cent of their gross domestic product on the military.

At one point during his media event with Trudeau this morning, Trump asked the prime minister directly how close Canada is to meeting that goal. The prime minister initially deflected the question before Trump asked a second time.

That led to an awkward exchange among the Canadian officials in attendance, who rattled off numbers until Trudeau settled on 1.4 per cent of GDP — the goal the Liberal government hopes to reach in 2024-25.

Despite the fuzzy math, Trump seemed satisfied.

"They're getting up to a level that's quite acceptable," he said. "They're under two per cent obviously, but they're going up."

The last batch of NATO figures put Canada's contribution at 1.27 per cent of GDP, but federal officials say the calculation was recently revised and now sits at 1.31 per cent.

Trump once again raised the spectre of the United States not defending allies who don't meet the benchmark, but later said he might instead retaliate against the countries he described as "delinquent" through trade measures.

Some NATO leaders have openly questioned the future of the 70-year-old military alliance, with Macron saying it is suffering "brain death."

"This alliance at 70 is extremely important to Canada and to people around the world, and we're going to continue to be dedicated to it," said Trudeau.

“NATO has always had to adapt to the changing security environment... What is significant about this leaders' meeting in London is that China is featuring on the agenda for the first time.”

said Stéfanie von Hlatky, an associate professor of political science and international affairs at Queen's University.

"There was a big adaptation with the end of the Cold War. NATO kind of reinvented itself from a traditional military alliance into an international security organization."

After the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, and throughout the so-called war on terror, NATO had to reinvent itself again.

"Now I think NATO has to deal with the rise of China," von Hlatky said. "What is significant about this leaders' meeting in London is that China is featuring on the agenda for the first time."

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