Canada should spend more on defence

Obnoxious he is, but when it comes to NATO burden-sharing, U.S. President Donald Trump has a point. With the United States shouldering almost two-thirds of defence expenditures by the alliance members, the other 28 members, including Canada, can do more.

At this week’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should commit to meet the NATO defence commitment guideline − 2 per cent of gross domestic product − by 2024. In doing so, he could also commit to increasing Canadian development assistance to 0.7 per cent of GDP, the target first recommended by former Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson. If the United Kingdom can manage these commitments for defence and development, so can Canada.

While these pledges will discombobulate some, it would further validate the Trudeau government’s declaration that “Canada is back” as a constructive internationalist.

In terms of readiness, Canadian Forces already have achieved significant interoperability on land, air and sea with U.S. forces. We do this through NATO as well as NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command), our 60-year-old binational aerospace and maritime surveillance agreement. We also achieve it through joint exercises and active operations in theatres such as Afghanistan and Libya and now in Latvia.

But we should do more.

This means spending more, not because Mr. Trump says so, but because Canadian sovereignty requires it. In their commendable, recently tabled report on NATO, the House of Commons National Defence Committee recommended that Canada meet the NATO target. They also encouraged developing quantitative and qualitative evaluations that better represent national contributions beyond the 2-per-cent metric.

There will be many opportunities for reinvestment. Three initiatives would immediately serve Canadian interests:

1) Increase the reserves: The Canadian Forces face recruitment and retention problems. This would bring in more young people as well as those who want to complement their current employment. They will learn a trade and serve their nation.

2) Assert our sovereignty, especially in the North. We need to pick up the pace for construction of icebreakers by using all of Canada’s shipyards and building more Arctic offshore patrol ships and supply ships for use in all three oceans. We should also invest now in the next generation of submarines – they are the ultimate stealth weapon to deter unwelcome intrusions into our maritime space. And why not build a pair of hospital ships to provide humanitarian relief in the increasing number of climate-related disasters that beset coastal nations?

3) Meet new threats. Canada should join the three NATO Centers for Excellence to address hybrid threats (Helsinki, Finland), cyber threats (Tallinn, Estonia) and strategic communications (Riga, Latvia). Their work would fit right into the government’s innovation agenda, while also bolstering the strategic partnership with the European Union.

The threats we face are real. These include a hostile Russia that has occupied Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine. Russia also actively undermines democratic institutions using chemical, hybrid and cyberweapons, tools that are also used for subversion, crime and terrorism. Terrorism, fuelled by failed and failing states and perverted ideologies requires constant vigilance. Nuclear proliferation requires ongoing containment.

For the democracies, NATO continues to be the best defence against threats, new and old. While the alliance is trans-Atlantic, its footprint is global, with partner nations including Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

But like any institution that turns 70 next year, NATO can be improved.

A useful starting point is the recent report of the GLOBSEC NATO Adaptation initiative. To meet and master the many technology and affordability challenges from “hybrid warfare to hyperwar”, the authors recommend a strategic review for next year’s summit so that NATO is “prepared, fit and able to act across the seven domains of grand conflict: air, sea, land, cyber, space, information and knowledge.”

Canada, like the rest of the Alliance, took the peace dividend after the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War. The Chretien government used the savings to pay down debt and put our financial house in order. Alas, the end of history did not arrive and the triumph of democracy was premature.

Now we need to reinvest in our collective security. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt, John F. Kennedy said, can we be certain, beyond doubt, that they will never be employed.

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US Elcction and Canada as target

Canada leery of protectionist U.S. campaign

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The Canadian embassador to Washington says the Republicans’ and Democrats’ tough stand on trade is concerning

OTTAWA (Reuters) — Canadian diplomats are fanning out across the United States to talk up the benefits of trade with state and local leaders and counter what senior officials see as a worrying mood of protectionism swirling through the U.S. election campaign.

Amid voter anger about the supposed harm done by international trade deals, both Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton have talked about altering the North American Free Trade Agreement. That could have calamitous results for Canada, which sends 75 percent of its exports to the United States.

From trade forums in Kentucky, California and Illinois addressing state legislators and small-business owners to meetings with mayors, labour unions and interest groups, a team of diplomats has gone coast to coast to explain how important Canada is as a trading partner.

The diplomatic offensive comes amid concerns in Ottawa about both candidates, who opinion polls show are in a tight race ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

Trump has talked about renegotiating the NAFTA treaty with Canada and Mexico to secure more favourable terms for the U.S.

However, he has also said he would revive TransCanada Corp’s cross-border Keystone XL pipeline project, which Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration blocked over environmental concerns. Clinton has said she opposes Keystone XL.

Current and former government officials in Ottawa said a Clinton presidency posed its own challenges for Canada.

They see the Democrat as tough on trade and more hawkish than Obama, who quickly struck up a warm relationship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

While tough talk on trade has occurred in previous U.S. election campaigns, “there is an undercurrent and a mood here which is concerning me,” said David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to Washington.

MacNaughton, who took up the job in March, has already visited Denver, Colorado Springs and Boston and plans trips to Massachusetts, Michigan and California.

An embassy spokesperson said diplomats were intensifying their outreach effort and doing more events than usual. At every meeting, they hand out tip sheets showing Canada is the top export destination for 35 U.S. states and that nine million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Canada.

Trudeau will not say which candidate he favours, stressing he is happy to work with whomever U.S. voters elect. However, his Liberals have more policies in common with U.S. Democrats. Elected last October, he and Obama have become close, exchanging visits to each other’s countries.

“Some of the issues that we are going to be facing will be very much the same regardless of who wins,” MacNaughton said.

“I think we have to prepare to deal with some pretty difficult situations on the trade front.”

Some Americans had little idea about the size of the U.S. trading relationship with Canada, he added.

Roland Paris, who served as Trudeau’s foreign policy adviser until late June, said Trump had tapped into some strong anti-trade sentiment.

“Those feelings aren’t going away any time soon,” he said.

“We may be heading into some protectionist headwinds, even with a Hillary Clinton presidency.”

Trump and Clinton also oppose a proposed Pacific trade deal that could benefit Canada.

One person with day-to-day knowledge of the U.S.-Canada trade file also predicted strains over Canadian exports of softwood lumber, as well as Canada’s system of protection for its dairy industry, which U.S. producers strongly dislike.

Another potential area for concern is Canada’s defence spending, which is .98 percent of gross domestic product, far below the two percent commitment agreed on by NATO members.

MacNaughton said that in his talks with Republicans and Democrats, both had raised the issue of “U.S. allies stepping up to the plate” in military terms.

Trump stirred concerns among allies and even some Republicans earlier this year by saying he would decide whether to come to the aid of Baltic NATO allies in the event of Russian aggression only after reviewing if they “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, who had several postings in the U.S., also predicted hard discussions with Clinton administration officials over defence.


“We will be circled because we are at .98 percent,” said Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.


That may not sit well with Trudeau’s government, which is pledging to run large budget deficits for at least the next five years to fund investment in infrastructure and social programs.

A government source said Canada had taken part in a number of high-profile NATO missions and was ready to push back on de-mands to increase spending in the military.

“We’re quite prepared and proud to stand up on our record and explain why there might be a discrepancy between numbers … and our actual contribution,” said the source, who asked not to be identified given the sensitivity of the topic.

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