Michael Taube: If Canada Truly Believes in NATO, the Government Must Meet Its Spending Target

Michael Taube: If Canada Truly Believes in NATO, the Government Must Meet Its Spending Target
From left, Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japan's Prime Minster Fumio Kishida, U.S. President Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, European Council President Charles Michel, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at an event to announce a Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine during the NATO Summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12, 2023. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)
Michael Taube

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in 1949. This alliance of member states, most of them based in Europe, established a collective security system to protect against possible outside threats. During the Cold War, the biggest concern was the Soviet Union and its allies. Since the Iron Curtain’s collapse, NATO has shifted its focus to political and military efforts in countries like Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.

Canada is one of NATO’s founding members. Lester Pearson, who later became prime minister, was a key architect. “When it came time to negotiate the North Atlantic Treaty,” NATO’s website notes, “Pearson and the Canadian delegation pushed for the inclusion of a clause that encouraged members to forge stronger political and economic ties, in addition to coordinating their militaries. This clause—not immediately popular with Allies, but vociferously defended by Canada—came to be known as ‘the Canadian Article.’”

Pearson, a Liberal, played a vital role in building NATO. This is on the verge of collapse due to the actions and inactions of another Liberal PM, Justin Trudeau.

How did we reach this point? It largely stems from previous comments made by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

It’s no secret that Trump and NATO haven’t always seen eye to eye. Nevertheless, one of his long-standing criticisms that’s resonated with many political observers was NATO’s member states weren’t paying their fair share.

“Many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money from many years back, where they’re delinquent as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them,” Trump said to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the July 2018 summit in Brussels. “So if you go back 10 or 20 years, you’ll just add it all up, it’s massive amounts of money is owed.”
Most of NATO’s 31 member states, including Canada, hadn’t met the target of earmarking 2 percent of their national GDP to defence spending by 2024. This had been outlined at the North Atlantic Council in Wales in September 2014. “Allies currently meeting the NATO guideline to spend a minimum of 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defence will aim to continue to do so,” the Wales Summit Declaration noted, and allies below this level would “aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade with a view to meeting their NATO Capability Targets and filling NATO’s capability shortfalls.”

Trump’s opponents tried to parse his language, critique his position, and adjust the narrative about NATO during his presidency—and before. They failed miserably.

An AP fact check in May 2017 argued this target “was set during the Obama administration and is less than an ironclad commitment.” This flew in the face of what former White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a July 2016 briefing. “The U.S. commitment to that pledge is ironclad,” he remarked, and then-President Barack Obama had “renewed that commitment just two weeks ago today when he travelled to Warsaw, Poland, to attend the NATO summit.”
The facts were indisputable: Trump was right. It served as a wake-up call within NATO. A total of 18 countries will reach or exceed the 2 percent target in 2024. The others have unveiled plans to achieve this goal.

With one exception, Canada.

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve moved from three countries meeting that target to 18, with more to come, and those that aren’t meeting it right now have a plan to get there, except for Canada,” Julianne Smith, U.S. ambassador to NATO, said in a Feb. 25 interview with CTV’s Question Period. Smith believed Canada would reach the target, but noted “every other member of the alliance has said we will meet it by 2024 or a few years later, but just saying in more broad terms that you’re working towards it, I think lacks the commitment that we want to see on the part of our friends in Canada.”

Canada has had 10 years to coordinate a plan of action.

How has Trudeau responded? He recently (and inexplicably) said Canada would “continue to put forward our budgets and our proposals at the appropriate time.” No, Prime Minister. That time is now. Every other NATO member state has come to this realization. So should you.
NATO would be well within its rights to remove Canada as a member if we don’t reveal a plan to meet the 2 percent target. That would be a huge embarrassment for our country. When combined with Trump’s remarks that Russia could do “whatever the hell they want” to any NATO member that doesn’t meet these guidelines, Canada’s safety and security would be put at risk. That’s a more terrifying thought.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Michael Taube, a longtime newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.
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