De­fence min­is­ter non-com­mit­tal on fresh NATO spend­ing

Medicine Hat News - - NATION -

OTTAWA

Canada ex­pects to make sig­nif­i­cant new in­vest­ments in de­fence fol­low­ing the forth­com­ing re­lease of its de­fence pol­icy re­view, De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan said Thurs­day as he met with NATO lead­ers in Brus­sels.

But Sa­j­jan was non-com­mit­tal about the spe­cific is­sue of Don­ald Trump’s re­peated com­plaints about NATO mem­bers whom the U.S. pres­i­dent has long al­leged have failed to pay their fair share of the cost of the al­liance.

Sa­j­jan said he spoke with U.S. De­fence Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis, a stri­dent spokesman for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on the is­sue of NATO spend­ing who on Wed­nes­day de­liv­ered a stern ul­ti­ma­tum to mem­ber na­tions. “Amer­ica will meet its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, but if your na­tions do not want to see Amer­ica mod­er­ate its com­mit­ment to the al­liance, each of your cap­i­tals needs to show its sup­port for our com­mon de­fence,” Mat­tis said.

Canada is demon­strat­ing its com­mit­ment to NATO by con­tribut­ing troops and lead­ing a multi­na­tional NATO mis­sion in Latvia as part of what is known as Op­er­a­tion Re­as­sur­ance, Sa­j­jan noted.

“Ob­vi­ously we did dis­cuss (spend­ing) in terms of the re­sources re­quired for the im­pact that we want to have in NATO, and every na­tion is do­ing their part to­wards that,” Sa­j­jan said.

He re­peat­edly men­tioned the on­go­ing de­fence pol­icy re­view, which was part of his man­date as de­fence min­is­ter and which is look­ing at Cana­dian de­fence needs for the next 20 years, in­clud­ing NATO com­mit­ments and mis­sions.

That means more money, Sa­j­jan said — al­though he didn’t say how much.

“We knew that spend­ing by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment was low and the de­fence pol­icy re­view al­lowed us to do a thor­ough anal­y­sis of what was re­quired,” he said. “Yes, this will re­quire de­fence in­vest­ments.”

NATO says mem­ber states should aim to spend two per cent of GDP on de­fence. Canada now spends about one per cent and has long been un­der pres­sure from the U.S., in­clud­ing long be­fore the start of the Trump era, to boost spend­ing.

The gov­ern­ment is look­ing at pre­dictable, planned in­vest­ments, Sa­j­jan said.

“We in Canada need to be able to demon­strate a thor­ough plan and what type of de­fence in­vest­ment is needed, be­cause this is sig­nif­i­cant money that needs to be in­vested, but the Cana­dian tax­payer also re­quires us to make sure that we are ef­fi­cient with the money.”

Har­jit Sa­j­jan

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