Trudeau Told NATO Officials Canada Won’t Ever Live Up to Defense Commitments
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau secretly told NATO officials he would never make the treaty’s mandatory minimum defense spending commitments, according to recently leaked Pentagon assessment obtained by The Washington Post.
Canada’s “widespread” military weaknesses are damaging Canada’s relationships with allies, the document, which is stamped by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says, according to the Post. Washington has long expressed dissatisfaction over Canada’s unwillingness to meet mutual defense spending targets and pressed Ottawa to contribute to security spending in the Arctic, where shared adversaries Russia and China are bolstering military capabilities.
“Widespread defense shortfalls hinder Canadian capabilities… while straining partner relationships and alliance contributions,” the document, one of a trove of sensitive Pentagon intelligence products that apparently leaked via an Air National Guard network technician, says.
Canada devoted the equivalent of 1.29% of its gross domestic product (GDP) to NATO, well below the 2% requirement, in 2022, according to a NATO report.
Trudeau privately “told NATO officials that Canada will never reach 2% defense spending,” the document states, noting that Canada’s total defense budget has remained below 1.6% of GDP for more than a quarter century, according to the Post.
The assessment appears to be recent; it cites a Canadian Armed Forces assessment that Canada “could not conduct a major operation while simultaneously maintaining its NATO battle group leadership [in Latvia] and aid to Ukraine,” the Post reported. Without a change in public attitudes, little will change, the document states.
Other European allies, most of which regularly fall below spending targets as well, are unhappy with Canada’s military capacity to contribute to partner defense, according to the document. Germany has concerns about Canada’s ability to continue providing security assistance to Ukraine while meeting NATO commitments.
Canada has provided more than $1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the war began in February 2022, including funds for eight German-made Leopard II main battle tanks, according to the Post. The Canadian military has also trained about 36,000 Ukrainian troops since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula and sparked concern across Europe of Russian aggression.
The U.S. and Canada also cooperate through the North American Aerospance Defense Command (NORAD), a unique joint military command tasked with early warning and missile defense for the North American continent.
However, Canada’s military lacks “significant Arctic capabilities, and modernization plans have not materialized despite multiple public statements,” according to a NORAD assessment transcribed in the document.
“Canada is much more than an exemplary neighbor; it is a reliable friend and a steadfast ally,” a Pentagon spokesman told the Post on condition of anonymity. “For more than a century, the United States and Canada have stood shoulder to shoulder protecting our homelands, building a secure and prosperous North America, upholding democracy and defending freedom around the world.”
President Joe Biden brought up the issue of defense spending with Trudeu during a state visit in March.
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