So, according to several media reports, Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and US Defence Secretary Jame “Mad Dog” Mattis, hit it off like two old army buddies. I’m a wee bit of a fan of General (ret’d) Mattis, in fact I would be a much, much happier man if he, not Donald Trump, was President of the United States. But, he’s not, mores the pity and as Professor Stephen Saideman of Carleton University says, “there’s the caveat” that Donald Trump, not James Mattis, is president and no matter what Secretary Mattis might say, on the record, or even decide, President Trump might, for his own “reasons” decide to do exactly the reverse, including, for example, decide to have “loyalty tests” for Mattis’ key staff choices.
President Trump is now on the record a saying that ““We only ask that all of the NATO members make their full and proper financial contributions to the NATO alliance, which many of them have not been doing,”” which is, to me, a pretty clear signal that burden sharing is on the table ~ not just for NATO but for NORAD, too, I expect. How big, I wonder, will the Trump effect be? Will he tie, say, spending 2% of GDP on national defence to NAFTA? Can we afford to spend 2% of GDP on defence and still give away money, willy nilly, to fight climate change? How will Bill Morneau find an “extra” $20 billion? An even higher carbon tax?
As I said a couple of days ago, we’ve got to get this right. Our relationship with the USA is absolutely central to our foreign policy, but it’s not all of it. Prime Minister Trudeau has to be able to juggle America and the provinces and Europe and America, again, and China and the First Nations and Latin America and India and America, yet again, and the Caribbean and Africa and, and, and … and he must do so adeptly, without dropping any balls. I’m not, at all, persuaded that he has either the mental strength or political skill to do so, nor do I think his cabinet and PMO (Team Trudeau) are good enough. I suspect that Prime Minister Trudeau honestly feels that if you put enough, nice, smart, committed people, people who are broadly “representative” of us all in their diversity, around a table that they will be able to figure out the right answers. I’m not convinced that our prime minister (or most of his ministers) is even able to figure out the right question … the cabinet may understand what Canadians want but that’s an answer to the wrong question. The right answer is to the important question: what do we need?
Anyway, he’s off to Washington, to meet, face-to-face, with President Trump, on Monday, tomorrow, and we must all hope that he has a clear, easy to follow brief that aims to protect and promote Canada’s vital interests.