Canada Needs A 'concrete Plan' To Hit NATO Defence Spending Pledge, Says U.S. NATO Envoy | CBC News


The federal government is facing renewed pressure on defence spending as the United States urges Ottawa to come up with a concrete plan to meet its spending commitments as a NATO ally.

Canada’s defence spending falls well short of NATO’s 2 per cent of GDP collective commitment

Brennan MacDonald · CBC News

· Posted: Feb 22, 2024 2:14 PM EST | Last Updated: 8 hours ago

United States Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith says ‘collective defence is not free.’ She’s calling on the Canadian government to develop a concrete plan to meet its NATO pledge to spend at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence. (Virginia Mayo/Associated Press)The federal government is facing renewed pressure on defence spending as the United States urges Ottawa to come up with a concrete plan to meet its commitments as a NATO ally.

Canada’s defence spending falls well short of its promise to spend 2 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defence. As more allies hit the target, pressure is mounting on Ottawa to stop falling behind.

“Canada is hovering now just above 1.3 per cent and has no concrete plan to get to that 2 per cent, while other allies have made and created plans to get there, if not this year, in the next few years,” U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO Julianne Smith said in an interview with Power & Politics.

“Those timelines and those plans are important because it showcases a shared commitment and it showcases intent,” Smith told host David Cochrane. “Here inside the NATO alliance, and certainly back in Washington, we very much encourage our friends in Canada to develop some sort of concrete plan to meet that 2 per cent pledge.”

Earlier this week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged the federal government to provide a timeline for meeting its defence spending pledge.

WATCH: Canada needs a plan to meet its defence spending commitments, U.S. official says  

Canada must have a plan to meet defence spending obligations, U.S. NATO representative saysIn an interview with Power & Politics, U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO Julianne Smith calls on Canada to develop a ‘concrete plan’ to meet its commitment to spend two per cent of its GDP on defence.

NATO allies pledged in 2014 to increase defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP by 2024. Stoltenberg announced last week that he expects 18 allies to hit or exceed that target this year. Canada is not among those allies.

In 2023, Canada invested an estimated 1.38 per cent of GDP in defence, putting it 25th out of 30 allies in terms of defence spending.

At the 2023 NATO leaders’ summit, Canada signed a joint communique committing allies to meeting the 2 per cent target. That communique also acknowledged that in “many cases, expenditure beyond 2 per cent of GDP will be needed in order to remedy existing shortfalls and meet the requirements across all domains arising from a more contested security order.”

In her interview with Power & Politics, Smith described Canada’s recent defence investments as “important” and applauded Canada’s support for Ukraine and its work leading and expanding the multinational NATO battlegroup in Latvia. But the U.S. ambassador made it clear that Canada is falling short on its NATO spending pledge.

“Collective security is not free and it requires countries, all of us, to come up with a concrete plan to meet that 2 per cent mark,” said Smith.

Asked Tuesday when Canada will hit the target, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not provide a date but instead said his government will put forward its budgets and proposals at “the appropriate times.”

“From the very beginning we committed to increasing defence spending by 70 per cent,” Trudeau told reporters. “Over time, we’re seeing the world continue to get more challenging, more complicated, with really difficult geopolitical forces, including a war in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined Tuesday to suggest when the Canadian government might meet its NATO pledge to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence. (Ethan Cairns/The Canadian Press)”We will be there to step up with our NATO partners. We will be there to continue to make sure that the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces have the equipment they need and that our allies can count on us to continue to be there for them.”

Citing leaked secret Pentagon documents, the Washington Post reported last year that Trudeau has told allies NATO officials privately that Canada will never meet the military alliance’s spending target.

When asked last spring about the Washington Post report, Prime Minister Trudeau did not deny the claim but defended Canada’s defence spending and contributions to the NATO alliance.

NATO allied defence spending came under further scrutiny this month after Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, said at a campaign rally he would encourage Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to any NATO member country that doesn’t meet its alliance spending pledge.


Brennan MacDonald is a producer for CBC’s national television program Power & Politics and a writer for CBC’s Parliament Hill bureau.

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