Murray Brewster, writing for CBC News, reports from Latvia that “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set himself on a political collision course with U.S. President Donald Trump Tuesday by laying out unequivocally that Canada will not meet NATO’s benchmark for defence spending … [and] … “There are no plans to double our defence budget,” Trudeau told reporters at the end of a bilateral visit to Latvia, where he announced Canadian troops would remain until 2023.“
Prime Minister Trudeau, like Canadian prime ministers before him, since the 2% target was set in 2002, “described the NATO target as “easy shorthand” and a “limited tool” and said Canada is always focused on having the capacity to respond when called upon.“
Murray Brewster reports that Prime Minister Trudeau “said the percentage doesn’t matter and it’s all about capability.” That’s trite, somewhat true and arrant nonsense. The 2% goal was established, back in 2002 because it was seen, by NATO members, as being:
- About right for most NATO members to share the burden of the defence of Europe and the North Atlantic region more equitably;
- Achievable by most NATO members; and
- A fair and sensible display of political will.
Of course any one size fits all benchmark is, as Justin Trudeau says, just “easy shorthand” because what’s being measured is Canada’s commitment to the West and, yet again, Canada is coming up short. “In addition to announcing the extension, Trudeau revealed that the army will deploy an extra 85 soldiers, many of them logisticians and engineers to help run the battle group.” An additional 85 soldiers is not what President Trump, quite reasonably is asking for, an additional $85 Billion over the next five years is more like what he is after.
As I said a few days ago, it isn’t doubling our defence budget that is needed, it is, probably, more like trebling it by, say, 2030 that will be needed. As I explained, the evolving global strategic situation, alone, should convince informed Canadians that our country needs to be ready to shoulder a greater share of the burden in defence of our own values and vital interests.
Retired diplomat Colin Robertson, writing in the Globe and Mail, that “At this week’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should commit to meet the NATO defence commitment guideline − 2 per cent of gross domestic product − by 2024. In doing so, he could also commit to increasing Canadian development assistance to 0.7 per cent of GDP, the target first recommended by former Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson. If the United Kingdom can manage these commitments for defence and development, so can Canada … [but] … While these pledges will discombobulate some, it would further validate the Trudeau government’s declaration that “Canada is back” as a constructive internationalist.” I agree with him on both counts. “The threats we face are real,” he says, and “These include a hostile Russia that has occupied Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine. Russia also actively undermines democratic institutions using chemical, hybrid and cyberweapons, tools that are also used for subversion, crime and terrorism. Terrorism, fuelled by failed and failing states and perverted ideologies requires constant vigilance. Nuclear proliferation requires ongoing containment.” And those are not the only threats to global peace and security … to Canada’s peace and security. But “Canada,” Colin Robertson reminds us, “like the rest of the Alliance, took the peace dividend after the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War. The Chretien government used the savings to pay down debt and put our financial house in order. Alas, the end of history did not arrive and the triumph of democracy was premature … [but] … Now we need to reinvest in our collective security. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt, John F. Kennedy said, can we be certain, beyond doubt, that they will never be employed.“
What Prime Minister Trudeau is spouting in Latvia is nonsense ~ it’s likely nonsense that he and his closest advisors believe, and it’s probably nonsense that a really solid majority of Canadians want to hear, but it’s still nonsense.