Canada’s former ambassador to NATO says Ottawa has “to make some decisions” on defence spending given the global security situation and a recent budget that pledged almost no new money for the military.
Speaking with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos this weekend, Yves Brodeur emphasized that Canada is hardly the biggest laggard in the 28-member alliance, contributing to international missions like the one in Latvia.
But he also acknowledged that the recent federal budget is unlikely to impress Canada’s allies, many of whom are actively working toward NATO’s established benchmark of spending 2 per cent of their GDP on defence.
“I’m sure that the NATO leadership … would very much wish to see our numbers go up,” Brodeur said.
“In terms of Canada specifically, I think that we’re gong to be under pressure from our friends down south (in the United States) to try and do better.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he will expect to see more money flowing in from America’s NATO allies, and has even threatened to pull out of the alliance. Canada currently spends just under 1 per cent of GDP on defence, the fifth smallest proportion among NATO members.
NATO estimates that Canada set aside $20.3 billion for defence in 2016. The 2017 budget offered no additional money to move the needle, however, drawing loud criticism from the Opposition benches in the House of Commons.
“I think that we have to make some decisions, just looking at what’s happening in the world right now,” Brodeur said.
He added that there are “several ways” of looking at the numbers. For instance, Canada currently ranks 9th out of all NATO nations when it comes to defence spending per capita.
“So not necessarily the top five, but not the bottom. So it’s not actually that bad.”
Still, money for new equipment and training will be critical in the coming years, said the veteran diplomat.
“That is really key for us, especially as we commit to do more military operations. I think we owe it to our military forces to have the best equipment they can count on if we’re going to put them in harm’s way.”