In paragraph 14 of a long (79 paragraph) Declaration issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels 11-12 July 2018, those heads of state and government, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, affirm that “we have agreed to launch a NATO Readiness Initiative. It will ensure that more high-quality, combat-capable national forces at high readiness can be made available to NATO. From within the overall pool of forces, Allies will offer an additional 30 major naval combatants, 30 heavy or medium manoeuvre battalions, and 30 kinetic air squadrons, with enabling forces, at 30 days’ readiness or less.“
OK, four 30s: 30 major naval combatants is simple enough to understand ~ that’s 30 frigates, destroyers and even bigger ships. Ditto 30 kinetic air squadrons ~ that means 30 squadrons (a squadron is, normally, 12 to 20+ aircraft) of first line jet fighters and bombers. 30 heavy or medium manoeuvre battalions means, I assume, 30 battalions (500-1,000 soldiers) each of tanks (35 to 80+ tanks in a battalion or regiment (Canadian usage) or infantry (900+ soldiers and 100± armoured personnel carriers in a mechanized infantry battalion); the enabling forces I assume refer to resupply, ships; air transport squadrons, ground crews and artillery, engineer, signal, electronic warfare and logistic battalions ~ probably, say, eight to ten of each of the latter if we assume that the 30 battalions are grouped into seven or eight brigades within two or three divisions. The 30 days readiness will, I suspect, be a real, serious challenge for any of the sadly understaffed and badly organized Canadian Army units that might be earmarked for this effort.
Canada, right now, has nine battalions of infantry, but not one of them is at anywhere near war fighting or even training for war levels of staffing or equipment. We have only one properly equipped tank regiment (Lord Strathcona’s Horse) while the other two “armoured” regiments (the Royal Canadian Dragoons and 12e Régiment blindé du Canada are “light” armoured regiments operating, primarily, Coyote reconnaissance vehicles which share the excellent Canadian LAVIII platform. The Canadian Army has declined from four nearly full strength and adequately equipped brigades when Pierre Trudeau became prime minister in 1968 to three understrength and poorly equipped brigades today, 50 years later. The “blame,” as I have explained, lies not with any one prime minister or even with one political party ~ Pierre Trudeau wanted to disband the military, entirely, so I have read, but was dissuaded by his cabinet, but, by and large, most Canadians bought into his vision of a Canada that would not spend much on its own or allied defence, spending on social welfare instead.
But the NATO goal is laudable and, right now, Canada can make credible naval and air contributions and with a bit of proper management could, in a few years, offer a full battle group to NATO for rotation in Europe … IF the country wants that.
But I suspect that the country, our country, Canada, is not interested … not even Conservative Canada cares very much. In the recent CPC leadership race only Erin O’Toole promised to bring defence spending up to 2% of GDP and he didn’t say it very often because, I guess, his campaign staff told him that it, defence spending, isn’t a big vote getter.
Thankfully there is no immediate, existential threat to Canada’s security that would compel a change in attitude … but there is a whole hockey sock full of threats that, taken together, should make more and more Canadians understand that Erin O’Toole is right and Justin Trudeau is wrong. Canada should aim to have something like enough forces to meet the 11 capabilities that I set out 2½ years ago and which no one has, yet, said don’t make sense. My guess is that means 25± warships, four and a half* army brigade groups (that’s maybe 18 “medium manoeuvre battalions“) and 90± first line jet fighters plus the necessary “enabling forces” like naval resupply ships and air transport squadrons and bases and supply depots and training schools and so on and so forth.
* The “half” is a smaller than a normal brigade Defence of Canada Force, custom tailored and equipped and trained for light, especially in the Arctic, low intensity combat operations.