Most alliances historically don’t last more than a couple of decades, but the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance is 70 this year, and has grown over that time to its now 29 members.
Originally formed as a protection against the Soviets, new and much different types of threats lurk, and there are divisions in the organisation.
Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and a Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. discusses the issues.Listen
U.S. President Donald Trump has been forcefully scolding many members of the Alliance for not living up to defence spending. In 2018, the Alliance widened the rules as to what counts as defence spending. Canada is among several members, including France and Germany, not living up to the commitment to spend at least two per cent of GDP on defence.
This now includes for example, pensions paid to former soldiers. The Liberal government has been meticulously searching for any expense that might be counted as defence spending including RCMP expenses for members involved in peacekeeping, costs for Canada’s spy agency-the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and even death benefits for veteran’s survivors. Canada now spends about 1.27 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product on defence.
Robertson notes that the Alliance is burdened with disagreements, but that this is not unusual in NATO’s history.
It now faces new and much different threats from the more simpler Cold War period, such as new state actor threats, social but somewhat fluid and unorganised threats like piracy and mass migration, and non-state actors like Al Queda and DAESH, and a move by Russia and China to militarise space. While it has its hurdles to overcome, Robertson feels the Alliance will remain strong coming out of this week’s meetings.
- CBC: M. Brewster: Dec 2/19: NATO summit expected to put Canada under pressure on multiple fronts
- CBC: M. Brewster: Dec 3/19: How NATO’s defence spending benchmark turned into an international PR exercise
- BBC: J. Marcus: Dec 3/19: Nato summit: Divisions exposed ahead of meeting
- CNN: C. Brown: Mar 14/19: NATO report says only 7 members are meeting defense spending targets