NATO Ambassador blasts Trudeau for not bolstering Canada's defence spending

Canada is the only NATO member of 31 countries without a plan or a timeline to spend 2% of GDP on defence, said Julianne Smith, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, who condemned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's 'lack of commitment' to collective security.

NATO Ambassador blasts Trudeau for not bolstering Canada's defence spending
The Canadian Press / Graham Hughes and The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went on the defensive Monday after allies condemned Canada for not meeting NATO’s spending target or having a plan.

There is more to do, admits Trudeau, but Canada is doing it, he claimed. 

During a joint press conference with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Trudeau acknowledged his counterpart had significantly ramped up its military spending whereas Canada has not.

It will happen sooner or later, said Tusk — "and it's better that they do it sooner than later." 

While Poland boasts one of the highest ratios of military spending to GDP in the world, Canada's defence spending currently hovers around 1.3% of GDP. 

"We will continue to make sure that the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces — and the people around the world, our allies, who rely on them — will continue to get the equipment and the support they need," Trudeau told reporters.

Canada's Prime Minister echoed those remarks on February 20 after the U.S. ambassador to NATO put him on blast for not tabling a plan to reach the spending target.

Canada is the only NATO member without a plan or a timeline to spend 2% of GDP on defence, according to the Ambassador Julianne Smith. 

On Sunday, she condemned Canada’s "lack of commitment" to NATO, whose members signed on to achieve that target last summer. Of the alliance’s 31 members, 18 will reach or exceed the defence spending target this year — up from 11 countries last year.

"Over the last 10 years, we've moved from three countries meeting that target to 18, with more to come, and those that aren't meeting it right now have a plan to get there, except for Canada," said Smith.

She emphasized that "collective security is not free."

On Monday, Tusk steered criticism from Canada by urging the "western world, and especially Europe" to fund Ukraine’s counteroffensive against the Russian invasion. He lauded Canada's "outstanding" defence commitments to Poland and Ukraine to date.

In the past two years, Canada has pledged $2.4 billion in military aid, part of $9.7 billion in total assistance to the war-torn country. Over the weekend, Trudeau announced a $3.02 billion 'security assistance package' with the Russian-Ukraine War entering its second year.

"It is a time where citizens cannot take their democracies for granted," said Canada’s Prime Minister.

"We need to continue to be there, to lean in — not just on being worried about their daily challenges ... but making sure we are building peace, stability and prosperity for future generations as well," he added.

In kind, Trudeau praised Poland for "standing up to Russia."

While Smith credited Canada for increasing funding for Norad, plans to purchase F-35 fighter jets, and an increased presence in Latvia, she maintained her position.

"Every other member of the alliance has said we will meet it by 2024 or a few years later," said Smith, "but just saying in more broad terms … I think it lacks the commitment we want to see [from] Canada."

"The world has become an increasingly dangerous place," she said. "So, we'd like to see some intent. We'd like to see that planning to eventually get to two per cent."

The federal government attributed domestic spending cuts to efforts to reduce deficit spending, reported CTV News. But that did little to assuage Smith’s concerns.

"Every single member of this alliance has its own domestic politics," said the ambassador. "It has its own history. It has its own complicated relationship between the finance minister and the defence minister."

"We all face unique challenges in this area of defence spending," she added.

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