Trudeau praises benefit of sharing intelligence
BRUSSELS — Canada’s deeply entrenched role in the fight against global extremism is more focused these days on intelligence-gathering — and sharing — than on putting more boots on the ground in the Middle East, Justin Trudeau suggested Thursday.
“The track record has shown that collaboration and co-operation between allies, friends and partners has saved lives and keeps all of our citizens safe,” Trudeau said at the outset of a daylong NATO meeting in Brussels. “We are going to continue to collaborate and to work together to ensure we’re doing everything we can to keep citizens and our communities safe.”
Trudeau brushed aside concerns that NATO’s agreement to increase intelligence-sharing in the fight against terrorism comes amid accusations that President Donald Trump and others in the U.S. are playing fast and loose with sensitive secrets.
The White House has come under fire over revelations Trump shared Israeli intelligence in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. And the British government assailed U.S. officials for leaking sensitive details and crime-scene photos from the investigation into Monday’s deadly terrorist attack in Manchester.
Trump issued a statement Thursday saying the White House intends to get to the bottom of what he called “deeply troubling” leaks.
“The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security,” the statement said.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders spent Thursday hunkered down inside the sparkling new Brussels headquarters to discuss how they can better co-ordinate efforts in the fight against terrorism — and better share the cost of defence.
Their main motivation, though, was to woo Trump, whose country is a driving force behind the military alliance — a body he described as “obsolete” during last year’s election campaign.
To that end, NATO Sec.-Gen. Jens Stoltenberg announced the alliance would be formally joining the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, albeit without a role in combat operations.
“NATO joining the coalition to defeat (ISIL) is a strong political message of unity in the fight against terrorism,” Stoltenberg said.
All 28 NATO allies, including Canada, are already part of the anti-ISIL coalition, and the military alliance has been involved in training Iraqi forces.
Still, Trump had been urging the alliance to take on a bigger role.
The calls for unity — and a strong alliance — were coming fast and furious from various leaders throughout the day, with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel laying it on particularly thick during a ceremony to inaugurate the new building. “Our common values are not obsolete,” Michel said.
And while NATO agreed to assess its “level of support and the future of the mission” in Afghanistan, Trudeau betrayed no enthusiasm for sending soldiers back.
“We have no troops in Afghanistan at this time, but we are happy to be supportive in other ways.”
Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan stands with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he holds a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels.