(Yes, this really is the 18th time I have commented on the Defence Review.)
In an item on the CBC News website, retired US Navy Admiral James Stavridis, formerly NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, said that, “he agrees with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that non-U.S. allies need to step up to the plate and boost their military budgets … “The two per cent goal is one that nations have set and I fully support it and I agree with Mr. Trump that nations should try to hit that two per cent goal,” Admiral Stavridis said in an interview with Terry Milewski on CBC Radio’s The House.”
The CBC item goes on to say that “Canada signed on to meeting that target in 2006 but has not reached the goal. Canada’s spending comes in at one per cent of GDP, or roughly $20 billion a year, a figure that some have argued is too low to sustain a modern military force. Only five other countries of the 28 in NATO spend less.“
I have beaten this drum before.
There’s nothing magical about 2% versus, say, 1.85% or 2.15% … in fact 1% spent wisely, productively, can be almost enough and 2% spent unwisely or counter-productively can be too little. But 2% of GDP is a pretty reasonable measure of a nation’s serious commitment to its own security. Spending 2% of GDP on defence also says that we are, really, serious about doing our far share “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” and “to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace,” as the Preamble and Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations asks us to do. The money (which would be about $45 Billion, this year, rather than $20 Billion, given that out GDP is about $2.3 Trillion dollars) is a large sum but so is the challenge … the one set for in the UN Charter: to keep the peace and remove threats to peace. That is not a cheap and easy task. Canada is amongst the most fortunate of nations: rich, sophisticated, peaceful and secure. If we cannot afford to do a full and fair share of removing threats and keeping the peace then who can?
The Defence Review should affirm that spending 2% on our defence is a reasonable and achievable short to mid-term goal.
The Defence Review should recommend a time frame for “growing” the defence budget from about 1% of GDP to, about, 2% of GDP, bearing in mind that our GDP will, most likely continue to grow, too. Such a time frame must give DND the time it needs to learn how to manage a bigger budget. My guess would be that eight to ten years might be about right.
Making Canada, once again, a real, firm, committed and responsible leader in the world ~ which is, I believe, what Canadians want to be, or, at least is how Canadians want to be seen as being ~ would require an act of real statesmanship of the sort we have not seen for a couple of generations. Is our government up to it … I wonder?