- NATO is pressuring Canada to increase its defense spending to meet the minimum target of 2% of GDP.
- The recent invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces has increased the urgency for NATO members to increase defense spending.
- Failure to meet the 2% target could result in reduced influence within NATO and globally, and weaken the collective defense principle of the alliance.
NATO has called for its member countries to increase their defense spending to a minimum of 2% of their GDP, and Canada is under increasing pressure to commit to this target. In a recent meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Canada should not view this target as a ceiling, but as a floor. Currently, Canada spends only 1.29% of its GDP on defense, and it is unclear whether the country has any plans to meet the target. This article examines the pressure being put on Canada to increase its defense spending and the possible consequences of not doing so.
Background on NATO and Canada
What is NATO?
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a political and military alliance formed in 1949. Its primary purpose is to provide collective defense against external threats to the security of its member states. The organization has 30 member states, including Canada, the United States, and many European countries.
Canada’s Relationship with NATO
Canada has been a member of NATO since its inception in 1949. The country has been an active participant in the alliance’s military operations, including the war in Afghanistan. However, the country’s defense spending has consistently fallen below the 2% target set by NATO. In 2022-2023, Canada’s defense spending was only 1.29% of its GDP.
At the most recent NATO foreign ministers meeting, Jens Stoltenberg stated that the alliance is looking for its member states to commit to spending a minimum of 2% of their GDP on defense. He suggested that this should be viewed as a minimum, not a ceiling, and that NATO is looking for “a more ambitious pledge” from its members. This statement is seen as an indication that NATO is growing increasingly frustrated with member countries that are not meeting the 2% target.
NATO’s Ambitious Pledge for the Upcoming Summit in Vilnius
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced an ambitious pledge for the upcoming summit in Vilnius. The pledge is aimed at strengthening the alliance’s collective defense and enhancing its ability to respond to evolving security challenges.
The pledge includes several key initiatives, such as increasing defense spending, improving military readiness and capabilities, and expanding partnerships with other countries and organizations.
One of the major goals of the pledge is to ensure that NATO can respond quickly and effectively to emerging threats, such as cyber-attacks and hybrid warfare. This will require investments in new technologies, improved training and exercises, and closer cooperation among member states.
Another key aspect of the pledge is the commitment to strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defense posture. This includes increasing the presence of troops and equipment in the eastern flank countries, as well as enhancing the alliance’s ability to respond to any potential aggression from Russia or other adversaries.
Overall, the ambitious pledge demonstrates NATO’s commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region, and to ensuring that the alliance remains a strong and effective force for collective defense. The upcoming summit in Vilnius will provide an important opportunity for NATO leaders to discuss and coordinate efforts to implement these initiatives and address the evolving security challenges facing the alliance.
Trump’s Bullish Moment
The 2019 NATO leaders’ summit had a cringe-worthy moment when a bullish President Trump directed a question at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the adequacy of Canada’s defense spending, asking, “So, what is your number anyway?” Members of the Canadian delegation accompanying Trudeau barked out conflicting numbers, and the consensus at the time was 1.39 percent of GDP. This moment was unusual for a highly stage-managed summit that NATO typically presents.
At the 2019 NATO leaders’ summit, US President Donald Trump criticized Canada for not meeting the 2% target. This incident caused embarrassment for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was present at the summit. Trump’s criticism also highlighted the growing pressure on Canada to increase its defense spending.
Concerns over Russia
The recent invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces has heightened concerns among NATO members about the need to increase defense spending. Many members believe that Russia’s aggressive actions require a strong response from NATO. As a member of NATO, Canada is expected to contribute to this response. However, Canada’s low defense spending makes it difficult for the country to contribute as much as it should.
Pressure from within Canada
Some commentators within Canada have also called for the country to increase its defense spending. Many believe that Canada needs to take a more active role in global affairs and that increased defense spending is necessary to achieve this. Others argue that Canada needs to focus on defending its borders and that increased defense spending is necessary to achieve this goal.
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Consequences of not meeting the 2% target
Reduced influence in NATO
If Canada does not commit to meeting the 2% target, its influence within NATO is likely to decline. Other member countries may view Canada as less committed to the alliance’s goals and less willing to contribute to its activities. This could result in Canada being excluded from important decision-making processes within the alliance.
Reduced influence globally
If Canada is seen as less committed to NATO, it is likely to have reduced influence in other global affairs. Other countries may view Canada as less willing to contribute to international efforts and may be less willing to cooperate with the country on other issues. This could reduce Canada’s ability to influence global affairs and could make it more difficult for the country to achieve its foreign policy goals.
Weakening Alliance and the Cost of Inaction
The risk of weakening the alliance by not meeting its funding requirements is real. The alliance is based on the principle of collective defense, which means that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. However, the ability of the alliance to provide collective defense depends on the military capabilities of its members.
If some members are not able to contribute adequately to the alliance’s military capabilities, it weakens the alliance as a whole, making it more vulnerable to potential adversaries. This could deter the alliance from fulfilling its collective defense commitments, which would undermine its credibility and deterrence posture.
Moreover, the cost of inaction is also significant. Inadequate defense spending means that a country is not investing in its military capabilities, which could make it less capable of defending itself in case of a conflict. This, in turn, could lead to increased dependence on the alliance, which could put a strain on its resources and capabilities.
Furthermore, inadequate defense spending also means that a country is not investing in critical defense infrastructure, such as military bases, communication networks, and equipment. This could hamper its ability to respond effectively to crises and emergencies, both at home and abroad.
Finally, inadequate defense spending could also affect a country’s ability to participate effectively in alliance activities, such as joint military exercises, training programs, and peacekeeping missions. This could undermine its credibility as a reliable ally, and weaken its influence within the alliance.
The pressure on Canada to increase its defense spending is mounting, as the NATO summit approaches. While the Canadian government has made some efforts to increase its military capabilities, it has not yet committed to meeting the alliance’s 2% GDP target for defense spending.
However, failing to meet this target could weaken the alliance, and make it less capable of fulfilling its collective defense commitments. This, in turn, could undermine its credibility, deterrence posture, and ability to respond to crises and emergencies effectively.
Canada must take this issue seriously and consider increasing its defense spending, to strengthen its military capabilities, and contribute more effectively to the alliance’s collective defense.