Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a meeting with Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ont. on July 15, 2019. He is London today for the full NATO meeting and may face questions about Canadian defence spending not meeting the levels agreed to. (Sean Kilpatrick- CP)

NATO at 70: leaders meet in London today

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.

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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.

Colin Robertson, VP Canadian Global Affairs Institute, former Canadian diplomat (supplied)

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.

Members of the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia wait for helicopters in the training area during Exercise TOMAHAWK Soaring at the Lielvārdes Military Base, Latvia on Oct. 3, 2018. Canada points to such efforts and training missions of other NATO troops as a demonstration of its commitment, beyond mere dollars. (eFP BG ROTO 10 LATVIA Imagery/CAF)

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.

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