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Jess Frampton

NATO dues and don’ts: Can Canada get off Trump’s naughty list?

Members of the Western bloc are on edge after Donald Trump said last weekend that he’d encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to allied states that don’t pay their dues. Canada pays well below the 2%-of-GDP NATO guideline and would be high on Trump’s “delinquent” list, but that doesn’t mean Ottawa is ready to pay up.

Trump’s comments drew the ire of … just about everyone. President Joe Biden, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and even fellow Republicans blasted Trump for his comments. The most common refrain was that the former US president was undermining the collective security alliance and emboldening Russia.

But Canadian leaders, who are preparing for a possible Trump 2.0, were more cautious with their response. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly admitted Canada must “do more” and steered clear of criticizing Trump. Defense Minister Bill Blairalso declined to take a run at the former president.

As Europe spends more on defense, the US has complained for years about Canada’s military spending, which is heading for 1.43% of GDP in 2025 – the highest it’s been in over 12 years. Ottawa’s defense spending is unlikely to rise further anytime soon as the governing Liberals keep an eye on the deficit and debt-to-GDP ratio while struggling to manage the budget ahead of a planned 2025 election.
Annie Gugliotta

Don't expect Canada to do much more for NATO

As NATO member countries wrangled in Vilnius this week over when and how — or if at all — to invite Ukraine into the fold, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau was thought to be lining up with Eastern European countries. Those are the ones who want the alliance to open the door to Kyiv, while the US and Germany are more cautious.

But whatever Trudeau had to say, Canada’s position did not get much attention. And why should it? NATO’s largest member by territory barely spends more money on its military as a percentage of GDP than tiny Luxembourg.

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Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, MN Justin Trudeau, and Minister of Defense Anita Anand arrive at the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain.

Blondet Eliot/ABACA via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: Canada is defensive … about spending

The fallout continued this week from the leak of a Pentagon assessment of Canada’s NATO contributions, which has embarrassed the Trudeau government. The documents say that Trudeau has told NATO officials that Canada does not plan to meet the 2%-of-GDP funding target that NATO members are supposed to reach and that the cash-strapped Canadian military has disappointed its allies by not being able to contribute to the alliance.

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PM Justin Trudeau visits Canadian troops in Latvia.

REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

What We’re Watching: Trudeau’s 2% trouble, media giants and their final tweets, friendshoring promise vs. reality

Trudeau’s defense spending

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has privately told NATO officials that Canada will never meet the alliance’s target of 2% of GDP on military spending, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. The revelation is based on a US intelligence document leaked on the Discord gaming app, allegedly by a 21-year-old intelligence staffer.

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A Canadian soldier holds a flag as they wait for the arrival of PM Justin Trudeau along with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Adazi, Latvia.

REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

What We’re Watching: NATO (still) wants Canada to pay up, critical mineral gold rush, a tale of two banks

Canada is a NATO laggard – but it’s far from alone

The aging defense league is finding a new raison d’etre battling Russian aggression in Ukraine. But Canada still falls short of the 2% GDP military spending goal that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently said is set “not as a ceiling but a floor, a minimum, that we should all meet.”

A recent NATO report estimates that Canada’s share of defense spending declined against its GDP to 1.27% in 2022, down from 1.32% in 2021 and well shy of the 2% target. Several members spend less than the target, but Canada falls toward the mid-to-bottom of that list.

In 2022, the US topped the list at 3.47% of GDP. The US routinely nudges Canada to spend more on defense. Last month, its ambassador to Canada said he was “hopeful” the country would hit the NATO target.

Canada has no plan to reach the 2% target, and its latest budget is still light on defense spending. But the government does tout that it has the sixth-largest NATO defense budget and is a top contributor to the alliance’s common fund. Canada also spent billions on new fighter jets and is making investments in northern and continental defense. NATO doesn’t penalize states that don’t hit the 2% target – and it’s hard to imagine Canada getting thrown out of the club, so all it can do is name and shame in the hope that Canada starts to pull its weight.

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