U.S. report claims Trudeau told NATO Canada will never meet military spending target

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak with military members about the North Warning System Site in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut on Thursday, August 25, 2022. A news report suggests U.S. concerns about Canada’s military readiness are more profound than is widely known. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

By Alexander Panetta 

Washington Post report says Canadian allies fret over what they allege is chronic underfunding

A massive leak of U.S. national security documents has now spilled over into Canada.

The Washington Post says it has seen a Pentagon document criticizing Canada’s military readiness among materials allegedly posted online by a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman arrested last week.

The purported document makes two broad claims.

First, it says that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told NATO officials privately that Canada will never reach the military spending target agreed to by members of the alliance.

Second, the document claims wide-ranging deficiencies in Canada’s military capabilities are a source of tension with allies and defence partners.

“Widespread defence shortfalls hinder Canadian capabilities,” the document says, according to the Post. “[Meanwhile it is] straining partner relationships and alliance contributions.”

The Post says the document bears the seal of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggesting it was produced for the senior leadership of the U.S. Department of Defense.

“Multiple points of tension”

The document reportedly cites multiple points of tension between Canada and its NATO allies. Germany reportedly is concerned about whether Canada can keep helping Ukraine while meeting its NATO pledges.

Other NATO countries, according to the Post’s report, have complained that Canada has not made good on a promise to increase its presence in Latvia, while the U.S. is seeking a faster modernization of Arctic defence technology.

Turkey reportedly is disappointed in Canada’s refusal to assist in transporting humanitarian aid after February’s deadly earthquake, while Haiti’s government is frustrated by Canada’s reluctance to lead a multilateral security mission there.

Asked about the report Wednesday, Trudeau defended Canada’s defence spending, which is growing significantly.

Getting Canada to spend more on its military, and faster, was a key agenda topic last month when U.S. President Joe Biden visited Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Planned increases will see Canada’s defence spending grow by $15 billion, or 40 per cent, within several years. Ottawa also has promised to buy F-35 fighter jets and modernize NORAD.

“I continue to say, and will always say, that Canada is a reliable partner to NATO, [a] reliable partner around the world,” Trudeau told reporters while entering the daily question period.

Fewer than half of NATO members have reached the alliance’s agreed-upon target of spending two per cent of their GDP on defence.

Trudeau  non-committal about target 

Canada ranks among the lowest spenders within NATO as a share of national GDP. In terms of actual dollars spent, it ranks among the highest.

Trudeau has been non-committal when asked about reaching that two per cent target. In private, the Post says — quoting from the document — Trudeau has “told NATO officials that Canada will never reach 2 per cent defence spending.”

In a media statement, a spokesperson for Defence Minister Anita Anand said Canada has “the sixth-largest defence budget among the Alliance’s members.”

“Our commitment to Euro-Atlantic and global security is ironclad and we continue to make landmark investments to equip our Armed Forces,” said Daniel Minden, citing the planned purchase of F-35s, the modernization of NORAD, efforts to expand the Canadian-led NATO battle group in Latvia to brigade level and Canada’s aid contributions to Ukraine.

“Canada will continue to grow its military capacity to meet the challenges of today’s world,” he added. “Overall, Canada’s defence policy increases our defence spending by over 70 per cent between 2017 and 2026. We also announced $8 billion in additional defence spending in Budget 2022.”

Related stories from around the North:

CanadaInt’l arctic cooperation needs to continue despite rupture with Russia: Canada’s GG,The Canadian Press

Denmark: Arctic security key in upcoming defence agreement: acting Danish defence minister, Eye on the Arctic

FinlandRussian cyber attacks, espionage pose growing threat to Finnish national security, Yle news

Greenland: Growing focus on Arctic puts Greenland at higher risk of cyber attacks: assessment, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland authorizes U.S. submarine service visits, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norway expels 15 intelligence officers at Russian Embassy, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian Arctic rescue exercise attended by observers from Iran and Saudi Arabia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Russian spy ships surveying Nordic energy infrastructure, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. nominates Alaskan as first Arctic ambassador, Eye on the Arctic

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