NATO Head Repeats Call for Canada to Meet 2 Percent Defence Spending Target

NATO Head Repeats Call for Canada to Meet 2 Percent Defence Spending Target
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg holds a closing press conference at NATO headquarters on the second day of the NATO Foreign Affairs Ministers' meeting in Brussels on April 4, 2024. (Omar Havana/Getty Images)
Matthew Horwood

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has reiterated calls for Canada to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defence, warning in an address in Ottawa that the defence alliance is facing the most “dangerous security environment for generations.”

“I continue to expect that all allies should meet the guideline of spending 2 percent,” Mr. Stoltenberg said during a speech to the NATO Association of Canada on June 19.

“I know that this is not always easy, because I’ve been a politician, a parliamentarian, and the prime minister for many years. I know that it’s always easier to spend money on health, education, infrastructure, and many other important tasks,” Mr. Stoltenberg.

Mr. Stoltenberg, who was previously prime minister of Norway, said that while he understood the Canadian government was concerned with spending on social services and balancing its budget, failure to prevent war would ultimately endanger its citizens. “So a precondition for success in all the other areas is to preserve peace,” he said.

While NATO has long dictated that members must spend a minimum of 2 percent of their GDP on defence, Canada currently spends just 1.37 percent. Out of the 32 member countries in the alliance, 23 met the 2 percent requirement in 2024.

During a NATO meeting in Brussels on June 14, Defence Minister Bill Blair said the Canadian Armed Forces was increasing its budget by 27 percent in 2024, and had begun acquiring additional capabilities to meet NATO’s requirements. “I believe it brings us inevitably to over 2 percent of defence spending, but I’ve got some work to do in order to be able to articulate that, both to my own country and to our allies,” he added.

Treasury Board President Anita Anand, who was previously defence minister, told reporters on June 18 that Canada’s failure to hit the 2 percent target has partially been due to the Department of Defence’s inability to spend its entire budget. She said that because of the length of time the government’s procurement system can take, it does not make sense to “fill the books with additional money, if that money can’t get out the door.”

While in Ottawa, Mr. Stoltenberg planned to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of next month’s NATO Summit in Washington, D.C.


During his speech, Mr. Stoltenberg applauded Canada for its billions of dollars in financial and military assistance to Ukraine for the war against Russia. But he also criticized NATO allies for delays in delivering military aid to Ukraine last winter and spring, warning that the countries “cannot let this happen again.”

“The quicker Moscow will realize it cannot wait us out, the sooner this war will end. It may seem like a paradox, but the path to peace is more weapons to Ukraine to convince President Putin that he cannot win on the battlefield,” he said.

Mr. Stoltenberg also took aim at China, which he said has been providing high-end technologies like semiconductors to Russia to aid in its war effort. While Beijing has pledged not to sell lethal arms to Russia, Mr. Stoltenberg said it has exported materials used to produce missiles, tanks, and aircraft to “inflict more death and destruction on Ukraine.”

The secretary-general said China had attempted to “create the impression” that it is not involved in the Russia-Ukraine War. “But the reality is that China’s fuelling the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II, and at the same time, it wants to maintain good relations with the West,” he said.

“Well, Beijing cannot have it both ways. At some point, unless China changes course, allies need to impose a cost.”

Mr. Stoltenberg also highlighted the threats posed by North Korea and Iran, which have supplied missiles and drones to Russia. He raised concerns that Russia may provide the two countries with technology and supplies to help them advance their missile and nuclear programs.

In response to NATO delivering long-range weapons to Ukraine that could be used to strike targets inside Russia, President Vladimir Putin said he may respond by giving weapons to the opponents of Western countries. Mr. Putin also recently wrapped up a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, where they signed an agreement pledging mutual aid if either country is attacked.