When Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he would attend the 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels, he pledged to use the opportunity to reiterate Canada's “commitment to playing an active role in the Alliance,” as well as “a strong and constructive role in the world.” "NATO,” Trudeau said in a press release, “is a cornerstone of Canada's international security policy, “and an important alliance as we look for more stability in a world going through rapid change. I look forward to meeting with leaders from NATO member states in Belgium to deepen our already strong relationships, and to discuss what more we can and must do to advance peace and security for our citizens and people around the world." Ahead of the NATO summit, U.S. President Donald Trump, in a letter to Trudeau, called on Canada to increase its military spending to $44 billion a year. Canada currently spends C$25 billion a year on its military, which represents approximately 1.2 percent of its GDP. In his June 19 letter to Trudeau, Trump claimed that Canada is undermining NATO’s strength by failing to fulfill a pledge made in 2014 by Canada’s previous Conservative government under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to increase the country’s military spending to NATO’s non-binding target rate for members of two percent of GDP. “There is growing frustration in the United States,” Trump wrote, “with North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies like Canada that have not increased defense spending as promised.” In Canada’s most recent Defense Policy, published in 2017 under the title “Strong, Secure, Engaged,” Trudeau’s Liberal government outlines its commitment to an increase in military spending over the next ten years from C$18.9 billion per year (on a cash basis) in 2016-17 to $32.7 billion per year by 2026-27. Renee Filiatrault, a spokeswoman for Canada’s Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, said that the Trudeau government’s planned spending increase has been “rigorously costed, is fully funded, and serves Canada’s defense needs.” She added: “It also upholds [Canada’s] long-standing role as an active contributor to global peace and security.” Filiatrsult also said: “Canada is proud to have contributed to every NATO operation since the founding of the alliance more than six decades ago.” Canada, together with 11 other countries, was a founding member of NATO in 1949. Filiatrsult added: “Canada’s participation in NATO operations around the world is a tangible signal of [the country’s commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance.” In his letter to Trudeau, Trump praised Canada’s global defense contributions in trouble spots such as Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan (where Canada participated in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] in Kabul and later assumed responsibility for counterinsurgency operations in Kandahar province), in addition to Canada’s strong contributions to various United Nations peacekeeping missions around the globe. He also describes Canada as “one of our most capable allies and a leader in worldwide security,” adding, however, that Canada’s “continued defense spending of less than two percent undermines the security of the alliance and provides validation for other allies that also are not meeting their defense spending commitments.” Canada’s Department of Defense says that the government’s currently planned spending increases are expected to “provide the Canadian Armed Forces with the force size and equipment required to achieve excellence across the full spectrum of military operations, from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, to peacekeeping, to combat.”

Paul Nash
Toronto-based Correspondent Paul Nash is a frequent China commentator and serves as a Senior Contributing Editor at Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.