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Commentary

NATO and Canada’s National Defence Budget

Tue, July 17, 2018   |   Author: Peter Vogel   |   Volume 25    Issue 29   

Can you imagine North Korea encouraging South Korea to increase its defence spending? Well, yes, actually. Every time it experiments with a new rocket, that would be a significant encouragement for South Korea to bolster its defence spending! Ok, sure, but can you imagine their two respective heads of state formally and politely sitting down for a talk, with Kim Jong-un saying to Moon Jae-in: “you should really cooperate more and spend more on your military in the case that we face a common threat”? That is hard to imagine, even with relations being better now than they were some years ago.

When you read headlines about what President Trump said or did at the recent North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Brussels, keep in mind that his main point was to encourage the other countries to spend more in their own self defence, and in the mutual defence of this alliance, rather than taking a free ride under the protective wing of the USA.

Given the disproportionate amount of money that the USA spends on its military in comparison to the other countries of NATO, it’s understandable. The US spends just over 3.5% of its GDP on its national defence. To give some perspective, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Canada spent less than 1.5% of their GDP on their national defence. The UK spends just over 2%, as do Estonia, Greece, and Latvia; but Spain, Belgium, and Luxembourg spend less than 1%. That is a bit of a spread, and these are all countries that are part of NATO.

But what about Canada? We spend about $20 billion dollars on our military every year, though it does fluctuate somewhat. Last year there was an increase in spending, and this year it is expected to drop, despite the fact that Canada has been lumping in things like veterans’ programs, coast guard operations, and computer support to increase the overall number.

Our decreased spending this year was probably not lost on President Trump. While he did not call out Canada directly, he was very clear that the other countries in NATO have to each increase their spending to the previously agreed-upon target of 2%. It is now obvious that this elicited little more than head-nodding from some countries, including Canada, who seem to politely agree, then do little or nothing.

But later Trudeau did say that Canada would increase its spending by 70% to meet the 2% target … by 2024. Can we write the timeline in smaller font, please? For him to keep that promise, he would have to be re-elected in 2019, and again in 2023. It’s possible, but it looks more like kicking the can down the road than making a serious promise.

Further, in the same statement, he said: “What you spend on a military budget doesn’t necessarily automatically lead to greater capacity to contribute to NATO’s defence, That’s why investments in capacities, investments in training, investments in actually new equipment are the kind of things NATO needs most.”

Well, then, that does clarify things! Are there plans to invest in the things that NATO needs most? Is this a hint that Canada will be buying new fighter jets and warships, not just hand-me-downs from other countries? Not likely. Given the track record of lumping-in (described earlier) we might be more likely to see future foreign family vacation trips and other projects creatively ascribed to ‘defence spending’ than actual increased investment in new equipment, despite Trudeau’s words.

It’s necessary for the government of a country to take the defence of its citizens and borders seriously. Canada should be meeting or exceeding its NATO target of 2% spending already, not lumping in costs that are not directly associated with national defence.

While NATO has issues that must be addressed, there is much for which to be thankful, including peace among its member countries and many others during its existence. President Trump made headlines by calling other countries to live up to their goals, but this latest summit continued a tradition of peace and overall unity among the member nations.

Ultimately, it’s a good thing when the country with the biggest military asks other countries to invest more in their own militaries. That’s a statement of trust and peace.

We should be thankful that the biggest disagreement in these meetings is over spending, and whether each is doing their fair share. Many nations in the history of the world spent more time going to war than working on an ongoing treaty.

Please pray for an end to the many conflicts raging around the globe and a cooperative peace between nations that goes beyond the absence of war. We agree with the concept of a strong military—one which we hope we never to have to use.

Please join the CHP in our goal to promote “Peace, Order, and Good Government” in Canada.



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