Time for the Great White North to Pony Up: NATO Losing Patience With Canada

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Despite the Great White North’s current crisis of leadership under feckless Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the relationship between the United States and Canada is still really remarkable. We have shared a 3,000-mile, demilitarized border with the Land of Maple Syrup for over two hundred years with no conflicts, no skirmishes, no snap-and-slash contests over territory. That’s something of a record in human history.

The upcoming NATO summit in the United States, however, will see Canada taken to task for one thing: Canada’s continued failure to live up to their military spending requirements under the NATO treaty and their seeming unwillingness to even attempt to meet these requirements.

Canada has been dodging its commitment to NATO for a decade. It may not be able to hold out for much longer.

Over the past several years, Ottawa has become an outlier among the 32-member alliance. It has failed to hit domestic military spending goals, has fallen short on benchmarks to fund new equipment and has no plans to get there.

It’s a stance that has frustrated allies far and wide — from the White House to the halls of Congress to capitals all over Europe.

And it’ll be on members’ minds when they gather this week in Washington for the NATO Summit, where they are expected to press Ottawa to come up with the cash while warning that things could get much worse if Donald Trump returns to the White House.

Oh, things will definitely get worse for Canada on this issue if (we may, with some degree of certainty, say when) Donald Trump returns to the White House. His stance on this is and always has been very clear; the United States already does most of the heavy lifting for NATO, but it’s time the laggards started chipping in, at least up to what the 2014 treaty requires, which is that two percent of their GDP to go into defense spending.

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Granted, it’s far less likely that the Russians will send 10,000 tanks through the Fulda Gap, preceded by massed artillery and chemical weapons, than it was in 1970. But if NATO is going to continue to exist, and it looks as though it will, there’s no reason not to expect all the member nations to live up to their treaty obligations.

One of the 12 founding members of NATO, Canada readily signed the 2014 pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea in Ukraine. The alliance as a whole might have been slow to get there, but this year, 23 of the 32 NATO members will hit the mark as fears grow along the alliance’s eastern front over Putin’s plans.

Two of the holdouts are Canada and Belgium, both of which are not only failing to meet the 2 percent goal but also the requirement to spend 20 percent of that on new equipment.

Unlike Canada, however, Belgium says it’ll get there by 2035. When will Canada? They won’t say.

They won’t say, perhaps because this just isn’t really a priority for the Trudeau government.

There’s an argument to be made that NATO is an organization that has outlived its usefulness. That probably won’t be a topic of discussion at the upcoming summit, at which we can rest assured President Biden will embarrass us once again. It should be – but it won’t. As long as the member nations remain in NATO, and I would remind Canada that they’ve been in this since the beginning, then there’s no reason not to expect them all to meet the minimum requirements for membership.

Canada has it easier than the nations of Europe. They live under the United States’ defense envelope. NATO or no NATO, the U.S. would not allow any invasion of or attack on Canada to stand, as it would place unfriendly forces on that demilitarized 3,000-mile border. That is, however, no reason to exclude Canada from living up to a treaty they signed on to.

Get out that checkbook, Mr. Trudeau. The NATO bill collector is at your door.

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