Justin Trudeau has told NATO officials privately that Canada will not meet the military alliance’s defense spending target at any time, according to a leaked Pentagon document obtained by The Washington Post that also states that Canada’s systemic military shortcomings affect relations with allies.
Documents leaked in February and March by Discord, a video chatting platform, include an assessment of Canadian military spending by the US Department of Defense, which Mr Trudeau told his allies Canada would not reach the 2% target.
The leaked assessment stated, “A significant defense deficit is holding back Canadian capabilities while straining partner relationships and coalition contributions.
He said the Canadian Armed Forces had decided they “couldn’t conduct a major operation while simultaneously maintaining NATO battle group command” in Latvia and providing assistance to Ukraine. However, Canada has provided more than $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the start of the war against Russia last February.
The Globe and Mail has not been able to independently verify the contents of the Pentagon document.
According to the document, the newspaper said the prime minister “told NATO officials that Canada would never reach 2% of defense spending.”
On Wednesday, Trudeau refused to confirm to reporters if he had actually notified NATO.
“I always say and always will say that Canada is a trusted partner in NATO and a trusted partner around the world. With our military investments and the support we give Canadians, we will continue to do so.
Canada and its allies agreed in 2014 to spend the equivalent of 2% of each country’s annual economic output. Yet, nearly a decade later, Canada is spending just 1.29% of its GDP, according to NATO’s assessment of 2022-23 figures.
And with Russia’s military assault on Ukraine still in the background, NATO’s military appears to be preparing for bolder defense spending pledges at a Leaders’ Summit in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, in July.
“At the Vilnius summit, I expect Allies to agree to an ambitious new defense investment pledge, with 2% of GDP as a floor, not a ceiling,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this month.
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The Canadian Department of Defense’s annual budget is currently about $27 billion. But the commitments would increase defense spending to $40 billion by 2026-27. In January, Ottawa announced that it would buy US F-35 fighter jets after more than 10 years of on and off purchase decisions. It is part of a decades-long process of replacing warships that has a chronic recruitment problem.
Ottawa also announced billions of dollars to help upgrade North American Aerospace Defense Command’s monitoring and warning systems.
The paper says the document reveals that Germany is concerned about whether the Canadian Armed Forces can continue to assist Ukraine while fulfilling its NATO obligations, and Turkey is disappointed by the Canadian military’s “refusal” to support the transfer of humanitarian aid after death. February earthquake. , and Haiti is “frustrated” by Ottawa’s reluctance to lead a multinational security mission in the Caribbean country.
David Perry, president of the Canadian Institute of Global Affairs (CGAI) and assistant professor in the Center for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, said these revelations should come as no surprise to Canadians, despite what he calls “very much pink” talking points in defense.
“As a country, we seem a little misguided in thinking that our allies can’t do their own calculations and make their own assessments,” Perry said. He said the level of investment Ottawa is putting into its military limits the options for what it can do and motivates allies to form new initiatives such as the AUKUS security agreement without Canada.
We have reached the point where we will no longer receive an invitation because of the previous warm feelings. »
CGAI’s 2021 Annual Report — the latest version available — said it had received financial support for projects and events from donors, including defense contractors and Canada’s Department of National Defense.
Canada under the Liberals has been careful to choose risk-free or low-risk military commitments over risky projects like Haiti, said Stephen Seidman, a political science professor at Carleton University in Ottawa and director of the Canadian Defense and Security Network.
He said the 2% military spending target is a “bad measure” because it prioritizes quantity over quality. “The Greeks are spending tons of money on the army. And does that make them a good ally? No, they are not a reliable ally because they spent everything on personnel and they are spending that on personnel targeting Turkey, another NATO ally.”
He said the absolute amount Canada spends on the military has increased since 2014, but that country’s economy has also grown, raising NATO’s target amount.
Professor Saidman said he did not think the Liberals would get political support to spend more on the military and noted that it was former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper who cut military spending.
The US Embassy in Canada declined to comment on the leaked documents, but said in a statement that “Canada and the United States have a strong partnership and mutual commitment on security and defense.” She added that both countries “recognize that collective security is not free – we need defense and security in the 21st century to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”