President Donald Trump met with NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office the other day and, of course, the topic of “burden sharing” came up. Now it has been clear for a long time the President Trump believes that the USA carries too much of the common defence burden and some NATO allies do too little … Canada is in that group.
A report in the Defence News by Joe Gould says that “President Donald Trump said Thursday that NATO allies that do not meet the organization’s defense spending targets would be “dealt with,” and he singled out Germany as one country he said was not doing enough … [and, he (Trump) added] … “We had countries that were not paying what they were supposed to be paying. Now most countries are. And I think you’ll be able to handle the ones that aren’t. Right? I have confidence,” Trump told Stoltenberg.“
The report goes on to say that: “Trump called out by name the countries whose military budgets meet a target of 2 percent of economic output: Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Greece, and the United Kingdom … [and he said] … “They paid. They were on time. They paid the number that they’re supposed to be paying. We have some that don’t, and, well, they’ll be dealt with” … [but] … “We’re still waiting on 20 member states to meet their NATO commitments and spend at least 2 percent on defense. And 2 percent is a very low number. The number really should be 4 percent,” Trump said.“
A recent (March 2018) article in MacLean’s magazine by defence analyst Ken Hansen say that “virtually no new spending has been set out [in the 2018 federal budget] for the fundamentals of Canada’s armed forces, including capital procurement.” Canada’s defence spending hovers around 1% of GDP (at about $20 Billion) which is about half of what Canada has agreed, within NATO that it “aspires” to spend and what President Trump wants us to spend.
It’s no secret that I believe that Canada needs to increase its defence spending … by a lot and starting soon. But there has to be a plan.
We have to know how many ships of what types, how many regiments, battalions and wings and squadrons and what types of aircraft and, above all, we have to know why. The Government of Canada has to have something akin to a social licence, like the one Louis St Laurent obtained in 1947, after he laid out Canada’s grand strategy in his Grey lecture at the University of Toronto, to increase defence spending by 100%. St Laurent told Canadians that he wanted Canada to be a leader in the world; he told them it would cost blood and treasure; he laid our sound principles … he was selected to lead his party and, in 1949, his government was elected with a whopping majority because Canadians trusted him, as a leader, and they accepted his vision of Canada in the world.
It is not a “plan” to simply say, “well, let’s double our defence budget.” DND needs to be reformed and reorganized and only then can it, fairly slowly, at first, make good, productive use of billion and billions and billions of “new” dollars, year after year and decade after decade. Even more difficult is that the government that finally decides that Canada must do its fair share, pull its weight, and so on and so forth has to find the money … without raising taxes. That means reallocating spending from other “envelopes” to the defence envelope … the only “rich” enough envelopes fund various entitlements, cancelling, even scaling back those may cause riots in the streets.
I am convinced that Canada needs to increase defence spending … pressure from President Trump may help to frame the debate that is needed but I think that a general election and a new government are even more necessary.