NATO Spending

Canadian soldiers on NATO duty in Latvia June 11, 2018. Prime Minister Trudeau who visited prior to the NATO summit announced Canadian leadership of the multinational battle group is being extended The NATO group includes Albanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Czech, Polish, Italian and Spanish forces. (Combat Camera- Cpl J-R Chabot)

NATO: defence spending claim and counter-claims

U.S President Trump once again ruffled some feathers at the NATO summit this week. Among other things he complained that other members were not meeting their financial obligations. His gruff talk however seems to have had some effect.

Colin Robertson is vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, a non-partisan think tank on international issues. He is also a former Canadian diplomat and trade negotiator.

ListenWith the end of the Cold War, most countries took what they called a “peace dividend” and reduced their defence spending by a significant amount. Canada also cut its spending quite considerably.

In 2014 NATO countries agreed they would boost spending to two per cent of their gross domestic product,by 2024. Canada it seems has been among the countries lagging.

The U.S meanwhile has consistently spent far more than 2 two per cent. Both prior to, and during the summit, U.S President Trump said that the U.S was tired of footing as much as  two-thirds of the  NATO bill.

President Trump came in very unhappy, but after an emergency meeting earlier today, said he was happy that other nations had agreed to “pay more and pay more quickly”.

That may or may not be the case.

For example, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when asked by reporters afterward said only that he had agreed to move “toward” the two per cent goal by 2024, but made no mention of achieving the two per cent target.  Italy and France also said they had agreed only to the same deal they had made in 2014.

Recently Canada announced a continued commitment to NATO in Latvia, an increased responsibility in Iraq, and has recently begun sending peacekeepers to Mali.

With Canada’s current defence spending at under one per cent, and moving toward the two percent goal of 2024, (actually heading toward 1.4 per cent), Robertson says with the expense and wear on already often well-worn equipment and personnel  involved with the current military NATO and peacekeeping commitments abroad it will be interesting to see to what extent Canada will be able to continue to increase spending and meet present and future NATO spending.

The end result of President Trump’s rough tone, may have had some effect on boosting NATO funding, but although the now 29 member states may have understood a greater sense of urgency on spending, what Trump is claiming  and what other states actually contribute and how quickly may not be quite the same thing.

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Homeland Security scrutinizes Canadian Syrian Refugees

Canadian officials have assured U.S.counterparts that Syrian refugees face multiple layers of security screening before they are settled inside Canada.

Canadian officials have assured U.S.counterparts that Syrian refugees face multiple layers of security screening before they are settled inside Canada.
Photo Credit: CBC

U.S. scrutinizes Canada’s screening of refugees

The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is hearing testimony on Canada’s process of quickly bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees. Some prominent American leaders have expressed concern that Canada’s screening of refugees may not be adequate and that dangerous people could too easily cross the Canada-U.S. border. About 400,000 people cross every day.

Canada uses several layers of security screening

Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has told his American counterparts that Canada employs several layers of security screening. Only refugees screened and approved by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees are chosen. They are then screened by Canadian officials abroad and biometrics are collected.

This is by no means the first time prominent Americans have suggested terrorists have easy access to the U.S. from Canada. Canadian officials have had to work hard to dispel the myth.

Terrorist myth persists

“Ever since (the terrorist attacks of) 9/11, there has been this sense amongst many well-placed Americans including people like the chair of the Armed Services Committee and former presidential candidate John McCain and current presidential candidate Hilary Clinton that some of the bad guys came in from Canada. It’s not true. It’s mythology. But it remains there out as a kind of suspicion,” says Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

ListenNo ‘fast pass’ into the U.S.

Robertson points out that after multiple screenings, refugees are still not granted easy access to the U.S.  “They still come as stateless or Syrian citizens. They can’t travel to the United States without filling out all the forms that the Americans require…So it’s not as if they are getting a fast pass into the United States through the back door of Canada.”

Some Americans would like to step up border security measures by having Canada share its no-fly list and by having both countries share entry and exit information about people crossing the common border. Canada is reluctant to do so because there is more pressure to respect privacy concerns.

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Canada Ready to Reengage on World Stage

“To this country’s friends all around the world… We’re back,” said Justin Trudeau after being elected the country’s new prime minister.

“To this country’s friends all around the world… We’re back,” said Justin Trudeau after being elected the country’s new prime minister.
Photo Credit: CBC

Canada set to re-engage on world stage

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Canada’s next prime minister has vowed to resurrect the country’s active role in world affairs.  “Canada, in a sense, left the field,” says Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice-president of Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Under nine years of Conservative government, Canada engaged in peace and security dossiers in Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and the fight against ISIS. But it had withdrawn from the softer international initiatives and several United Nations bodies including the General Assembly.

‘We didn’t participate in the same way’

“It has been noticed by other countries that we didn’t participate in the same way in say, disarmament, refugees, migration, even though we held up our migration levels,” he says. “This particularly came to a head more recently with the Syrian and the larger, global migration crisis where we were seen to be less than generous.”

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Canada’s CF-18s will be pulled out of the coalition bombing strikes agains ISIS, but the prime minister-designate promises other contributions.

Canada’s CF-18s will be pulled out of the coalition bombing strikes agains ISIS, but the prime minister-designate promises other contributions. © Jason Franson/Canadian Press

‘We’re back,’ says prime minister-designate

The day after he won the federal election, Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau announced that things would change.  “To this country’s friends all around the world — many of you have worried that Canada has lost its compassionate and constructive voice in the world over the past 10 years. Well, I have a simple message for you: on behalf of 35 million Canadians: We’re back.

Trudeau promised to resettle 25,000 refugees before the end of this year. He also called a meeting of the premiers of each province to discuss climate change and he invited them to come with him to the UN Summit in Paris in December. He will also have meetings of the G20, APEC, and he has said he wants to examine the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership before agreeing to implement it.

‘Earning our way back into good global citizenship’

Trudeau has vowed to withdraw Canada’s six CF-18 fighter jets active in coalition bombing raids against ISIS. But he would replace that with training or other peacekeeping efforts.

“So it is a fairly busy international schedule with both the classical peace and security issues, as well as trade and economic issues, and humanitarian and people issues on the agenda for Mr. Trudeau,” says Robertson.

“Earning our way back into good global citizenship requires money and time,” wrote Robertson in a recent editorial, adding, the new prime minister will have to decide where Canada wants to play a role in the world, what it wants to achieve and how much it will spend.

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