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Canada urged to spend more on defence as NATO chief addresses summit – National

Pressure is mounting on Canada to spend more money on defence, and the NATO chief said the current standard is the minimum that allies should spend.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the status quo is “not good enough,” and warned leaders gathered in Washington DC for the alliance's annual summit – including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – that more work needs to be done.

“It is not possible to provide a strong defense without a strong defense industry,” Stoltenberg said on Tuesday. “That is why this conference is so important.”

Stoltenberg did not mention Canada in his speech, but US lawmakers expressed their disappointment directly to Trudeau.

Click to play video: 'NATO summit: Former Canadian ambassador discusses potential tensions'

NATO summit: Former Canadian ambassador discusses potential tensions

NATO is celebrating its 75th anniversary, but analysts say Canada risks being pushed into the background in the talks because it is falling behind spending targets.

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Trudeau met a bipartisan group of US senators on Tuesday, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

After the meeting, McConnell posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) that Canada needed to increase spending.

“Shared values ​​and close economic ties have always been strengths of the U.S.-Canada relationship. But now is the time for our northern allies to seriously invest in the hard power needed to help maintain prosperity and security,” McConnell said.

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Schumer has been less critical publicly, writing on Twitter, “I look forward to continuing to work together to advance the U.S.-Canada relationship and strengthen NATO.”

But sources have told Global News the Biden administration is losing patience with Canada for not doing its share of the defence pie.

Click to play video: 'NATO summit: Defence spending tops discussion as Trudeau meets US political leaders'

NATO summit: Defence spending tops discussion as Trudeau meets US political leaders

In May, a group of U.S. senators sent a letter to Trudeau expressing their disappointment.

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Canada regularly falls short of the current standard of spending at least two per cent of GDP on defence. NATO estimates that Canada spends 1.37 per cent. But Stoltenberg said that standard is also the minimum expected of allies.

“We now have a two percent cap on our defense spending,” Stoltenberg said. “What we're doing right now is not enough.”

NATO says 23 allies now meet or exceed the two percent benchmark, compared with just seven in 2022.

Trudeau addressed the Canadian Embassy in Washington and defended Canada's defence spending record.

“When we took office, Canada was spending less than one per cent of its GDP on defence each year. We vowed to change that immediately, and we delivered on our promise,” Trudeau said.

According to Canada's updated Defence Policy, defence spending will rise from the current 1.37 per cent of GDP to 1.76 per cent by 2030, from $26.9 billion last fiscal year to an estimated $49.5 billion.

Trudeau said, “NATO is the world's strongest military alliance. To keep it that way, we must continue to take steps, individually and collectively, to strengthen our alliance and the collective peace it represents.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland reiterated Trudeau's message at a news conference in Toronto.

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“I think it's important for Canadians to understand that Canada is the seventh-largest defence spender in the entire NATO alliance of 32 countries,” he said.

According to the alliance, Canada ranks seventh among NATO allies in terms of net dollar value. But Canada ranks fifth-to-last in terms of the share of GDP spent on defence.

Click to play video: 'Freeland defends Canada's defence spending, says country is 7th 'largest' spender in NATO alliance'

Freeland defended Canada's defence spending, saying the country is the 7th largest defence spender in the NATO alliance.

Defence Minister Bill Blair said Canada would reach the two per cent threshold, but did not say when.

“I have no intention of giving Canada freebies,” Blair said in an address to a security forum on the eve of the summit.

While other NATO members have also failed to reach that number, Canada is the only country that has yet to provide a concrete plan for when it will get there. Stoltenberg has said a roadmap will be expected at this week's summit.

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If Donald Trump becomes the next US president, there will be even more pressure on Canada to increase spending.

Last February, Trump said he would “encourage” Russia to “do whatever it wants” to NATO allies that don’t pay their bills.

— With files from Mercedes Stephenson and Sean Boynton

© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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