At NATO Justin Trudeau stands by Canada’s defence budget

NATO
Justin Trudeau talks with British and Dutch leaders

The 30 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) agreed in 2014 to raise their defense spending to 2% of their national gross domestic product. This target should also be at the forefront when the leaders of the military alliance will meet on Wednesday in Spain. On Tuesday evening, Justin Trudeau met his counterparts at a dinner at the Royal Palace in Madrid hosted by King Felipe VI. However, formal exchanges between leaders must begin on Wednesday morning.

The new report released Monday by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg estimates that Canada’s defense spending will decline this year as a percentage of GDP. According to NATO, these expenses would increase to 1.27% this year, compared to 1.32% last year and 1.42% in 2020. The report does not explain this drop, nor if it takes into account the $8 billion in new military spending promised in the April federal budget, but whose objective has not been clearly defined by the Liberal government.

Asked about the NATO report at the press conference at the close of the G7 meeting in Germany on Tuesday as he prepared to travel to Madrid, Trudeau said his government had announced several “significant” new investments. These include $4.9 billion to modernize the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), as well as plans to purchase new fighter jets to replace aging CF-18s.

Commitments to the field

The Prime Minister also said that Canada has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to the Atlantic Alliance by deploying troops and equipment in various missions, including commanding NATO’s multinational force in Latvia. “Canada is still part of NATO missions and continues to play an important role in them,” said Mr. Trudeau. We know how important it is to intervene and we will continue to do so to ensure that the world knows it can count on Canada to advance the cause of democracy, the rule of law, and opportunities for all. »

Trudeau, however, dodged the question of whether Canada was prepared to deploy more troops to Latvia as NATO seeks to double the size of its forces in the Baltics in response to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Latvia’s ambassador to Ottawa told The Canadian Press earlier this week that Canada is talking with allies about bolstering the Canadian military-led battle group in his country.

The battlegroup in Latvia is one of four battlegroups created by NATO in 2017. Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States each command a battlegroup, respectively in Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland. Germany and the UK have said in recent weeks that they are ready to lead larger battlegroups in Lithuania and Estonia, but Canada has so far remained mum on its intentions in Latvia.

Mr. Trudeau also did not indicate on Tuesday whether Canada was ready to put more military personnel in a “high state of readiness” – Secretary General Stoltenberg announced on Monday that NATO plans to increase from 40,000 to 300,000 the number of personnel at a “high readiness level”. “We have worked very closely with NATO partners, with the Secretary-General of NATO, and especially with the Latvians, where Canada leads the (battlegroup) and is committed to ensuring that we continue to stand up against Russia,” Trudeau said on Tuesday. “We, like others, are making plans to be able to scale quickly,” he added. And these are conversations I’m very much looking forward to having over the next two days” in Madrid.

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