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NATO Secretary General urges Canada to meet its defense target

Photo: Mark Schiefelbein Associated Press Jens Stoltenberg, during his visit to the White House on Monday

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that Canada and the rest of allies must fulfill their pledge to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense, during a short passing through Ottawa on Wednesday.

“I continue to expect that we will all respect the 2% spending guideline,” he told a packed house on Parliament Hill.

The Secretary General's visit comes as Ottawa ranks among eight countries still spending less than 2% of its GDP on military spending, alongside countries like Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Alliance members unanimously agreed to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense within ten years, following the annexation of the Crimea by Russia in 2014.

During a visit with US President Joe Biden to Washington on Monday, Stoltenberg disclosed that 23 member countries of the alliance would reach the threshold this year. Canada is currently at approximately 1.37% of GDP and is expected to reach 1.76% in 2029-2030.

The Secretary-General said military spending would be a priority topic for discussion when he meets with Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly on Wednesday evening.

“I hope we all get to 2%. We have accepted this target for defence, and I think those who are not able to achieve it by this year will come forward with a plan to do so. I look forward to having a plan from Canada,” he told reporters.

Canada is the only NATO country that has yet to articulate a clear plan to meet the much-vaunted funding target.

Budgetary Constraints

The Secretary General has made several mentions of the importance of the 2% target, but has stopped short of directly criticizing the Canadian government.

“I have been a politician, a parliamentarian and a prime minister for years, and I know that it is always easier to spend money on health, education or infrastructure than it is to invest more in defence,” Stoltenberg conceded during a discussion moderated by Canadian journalist Lisa LaFlamme.

“The challenges you face in Canada are the same as those faced by all other countries with a budget,” he added.

Last month, National Defense Minister Bill Blair said it is difficult to convince his cabinet colleagues of the importance of investing more in defense.

The President of the Treasury Board, Anita Anand, made a discreet appearance in the room during the Secretary General's address.

The new defense policy published in April aims to reach 1.76% of GDP by 2030, a budget of $49.5 billion. The Defense Department's budget was $26.9 billion last year.

“We see China and Russia investing heavily [in their military spending ] and that particular pressure will be exerted on their neighbors. […] So it is important that we invest to defend ourselves,” insisted the Secretary General.

An important summit

Mr. Stoltenberg's visit to the capital comes just weeks before the NATO summit in Washington, also marking the alliance's 75th anniversary.

Aside from the 2% funding target, increasing financial aid to Ukraine will be high on the agenda, he said.

“Since the Russian invasion, Canada has provided billions of dollars of aid to Ukraine, including air defense systems. This was essential for the Ukrainians to be able to fight back and survive as a sovereign nation,” Mr. Stoltenberg recalled.

“But this winter and spring we saw serious delays and gaps in financial aid sent to Ukraine, which had consequences. We cannot let this happen again,” he lamented.

During a recent visit to the White House, Mr. Stoltenberg also declared that he hoped that allies would agree to “step up their financial and military support for Ukraine” and reduce the burden on the United States.

« It may seem paradoxical, but the path to peace is to provide more weapons to Ukraine to convince President Putin that he cannot win this war,” he said to a round of applause .

Mr. Stoltenberg's last visit to Canada was in August 2022.

He will return to Washington Thursday, where he will meet with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and members of the U.S. Congress.

NATO leaders will then meet in Washington from July 9 to 11 for the NATO summit.

Read also

  • 'Path to peace requires more weapons for Ukraine,' says NATO chief
  • Canada's military spending to meet NATO target by 2029, says Bill Blair
Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116