Ukraine, Defence Spending on Agenda as Trudeau Attends NATO Summit

Ukraine, Defence Spending on Agenda as Trudeau Attends NATO Summit
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves as he arrives at Andrews Airforce Base ahead of the NATO Summit in Washington on July 8, 2024. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Noé Chartier

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Washington this week to attend the NATO Summit as pressure mounts on Canada to increase defence spending, and as the war in Ukraine continues.

The meeting comes at a time of transition in several key member nations.

The UK just elected a new government, French President Emmanuel Macron’s party finished in second place in the July 7 election, and the United States will be holding a presidential election this year.
And NATO itself is preparing for a transition at the top, with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg completing his four-year term in September. He will be replaced by former Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte.


Mr. Trudeau left for the U.S. capital on the morning of July 8. He had meetings planned for later that day with Business Roundtable CEO Joshua Bolten and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore. The Business Roundtable represents major U.S. multinationals like Amazon and Microsoft.

The NATO 75th anniversary event will be held on July 9 and the leaders’ meeting is set to take place the following day.

The prime minister will be facing pressure in D.C., as NATO members are expected to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defence, which Canada hasn’t reached yet.

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

NATO estimates Canada will spend 1.37 percent of GDP on defence in 2024, making it one of eight countries in the alliance of 32 members not meeting the target. Previously, a minority of countries followed the spending guideline but spending has increased across the alliance in recent years.
The Canadian defence policy update released in the spring plans an increase to 1.76 percent by 2029.

Mr. Trudeau is not expected to announce a defence spending change, but he will press to continue supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russia, according to a government official.

During the summit, NATO is expected to unveil a plan to prepare for the eventual integration of Ukraine into the alliance.

“Allies will reaffirm that Ukraine’s future is in NATO [and] will make significant new announcements about how we’re increasing NATO’s military, political, and financial support for Ukraine,” said a senior U.S. official.
Ukraine’s close links to NATO and member countries is a reason Russia cited to justify invading.

The U.S. official told reporters however that the U.S. government believes Ukraine’s membership in NATO is a question of when, rather than if.

Andrew Thornebrooke, The Canadian Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.