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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.

The Graphic Truth: Who's spending what NATO wants?

In 2017, then-US President Trump rallied against NATO, complaining that European member states weren't pulling their weight to bolster the alliance, whose cornerstone is that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. NATO was formed in the wake of World War II as a counterweight against Soviet dominance in Europe and beyond. But this week, when US President Biden met fellow NATO members in the UK, the emphasis was on how to adapt the alliance to counter China's increasing belligerence. Indeed, disagreements over sharing the cost of maintaining military readiness have caused frictions in recent years, and as a result, the bloc agreed that all member states would spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense by 2024. So, how are they tracking? Here's a look at who pays what.

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