Trump is right about Canada’s spend­ing

Journal Pioneer - - EDITORIAL - BY ROSIE DIMANNO Rosie DiManno writes on na­tional af­fairs for the Torstar Syn­di­cate

Canada is a welsher state. (Hold your out­rage, that ad­jec­tive has noth­ing to do with the Welsh.) I am speak­ing specif­i­cally about this coun­try’s fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion to NATO, the in­ter­na­tional al­liance formed af­ter the Se­cond World War, con­structed around the prin­ci­ple of col­lec­tive de­fence. Ar­ti­cle 5 of the es­tab­lish­ing char­ter de­clares that “an at­tack on one is an at­tack on all.” Orig­i­nally and for four decades the thrust of NATO’s rai­son díÍtre was de­ter­ring Soviet ag­gres­sion. With the end of the Cold War, NATO shifted to­ward help­ing for­mer Soviet-bloc coun­tries em­brace democ­racy and the mar­ket econ­omy. But now it’s come full cir­cle. Once again, un­der the mil­i­tancy of Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin - an­nex­ing a chunk of Ukraine, send­ing troops into the Ge­or­gian civil war, in­ter­ven­ing on the side of the As­sad regime in Syria - Rus­sia is a re­gional bel­liger­ent. Global even, in an era of cy­ber med­dling and mis­chief and elec­toral in­ter­fer­ence. With lead­ers of the 29 mem­ber na­tions meet­ing in Brus­sels on Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day, the agenda in­cluded coun­ter­ing that Rus­sian bel­li­cos­ity, in­tro­duc­ing a new train­ing mis­sion in Iraq and coun­tert­er­ror­ism sup­port for Afghanistan, Jor­dan and Tu­nisia. U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, how­ever, clearly wanted to pick up where he left off at their last con­fab a year ago - knock­ing ally heads to­gether to shame them into meet­ing dol­lar com­mit­ments made three years ago (ac­tu­ally the target was first set in 2002): con­tribut­ing two per cent of GDP to­ward spend­ing on na­tional de­fence within a decade. The whole world was brac­ing for grenades Trump was ex­pected to toss at the sum­mit, against some of Amer­ica’s staunch­est friends. Be­fore leav­ing Wash­ing­ton, the pres­i­dent got in a cou­ple of pre-emp­tive shots across the bow. “NATO has not treated us fairly but I think we’ll work some­thing out. We pay far too much and they pay far too lit­tle.” Mean­ing Europe and Canada. Less an­tag­o­nis­tic than pre­vi­ous dec­la­ra­tions Trump has made about NATO al­lies, such as last month char­ac­ter­iz­ing the U.S. as “the piggy bank that (NATO) likes to take from.” He also re­cently sent hec­tor­ing let­ters to Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and other NATO lead­ers com­plain­ing that too many coun­tries were not hump­ing their fair share of the col­lec­tive cost and in­vest­ing too lit­tle in their own mil­i­taries, a com­mit­ment of tax dol­lars that just doesn’t square well with do­mes­tic pop­u­la­tions. Trump wrote that it will “be­come in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to jus­tify to Amer­i­can cit­i­zens why some coun­tries con­tinue to fail to meet our shared col­lec­tive se­cu­rity com­mit­ments.” It’s painful to say this but Trump is es­sen­tially cor­rect. The U.S. pro­vides most of the NATO mus­cle in fund­ing and troops, shoul­der­ing nearly three­quar­ters of the al­liance’s op­er­at­ing bud­get. NATO’s cur­rent an­nual op­er­at­ing bud­get is $1.38 bil­lion, $252 million for the civil­ian bud­get, and $704 million for its Se­cu­rity In­vest­ment Pro­gram. The pres­i­dent some­what mis­leads by con­flat­ing na­tional de­fence spend­ing with NATO sup­port. But the point is fun­da­men­tally well taken. The com­bined de­fence bud­get of NATO na­tions has grown by $14.4 bil­lion since 2016, with all but one of the coun­tries in­creas­ing their spend­ing and 26 con­tribut­ing troops to NATO mis­sions. “Six­teen - but not Canada - are on track to spend the NATO target of two per cent of their gross do­mes­tic prod­uct on de­fence by 2024,” notes a primer for the sum­mit re­leased by the Cana­dian Global Af­fairs In­sti­tute. On his way to Brus­sels, Trudeau dou­bled down on his Trump re­sis­tance by reit­er­at­ing that Canada has no plans to al­most double-up on its de­fence bud­get, main­tain­ing that the two per cent target is “an easy short­hand” but also “a lim­ited tool” for mea­sur­ing a na­tion’s com­mit­ment to NATO. The prime min­is­ter can bur­nish Canada’s in­ter­na­tional en­gage­ment by point­ing to the new Mali mis­sion, which is a UN peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tion. Still, there is trea­sure in blood, po­ten­tially - which the Trudeau gov­ern­ment has tried might­ily to avoid - and trea­sure in hard dol­lars de­fence spend­ing. And if Canada, an orig­i­nal NATO found­ing mem­ber, truly val­ues the al­liance in a tur­bu­lent con­tem­po­rary world, then it needs to pony up its pro­por­tional share, along with the rest of the lag­gards. It should be noted, though, that even pres­i­dent Barack Obama urged Par­lia­ment: “NATO needs more Canada.” Euro­pean lead­ers were brac­ing for a show­down with Trump, amidst crises in Bri­tain (Brexit) and Ger­many (mi­gra­tion and refugees). Just as in­trigu­ing, from a Cana­dian per­spec­tive - in­so­far as we’re al­lowed a look-in - is how Trudeau and Trump will con­tend with each other in their first face-to-face since the dis­as­ter of the June G7 sum­mit in Que­bec City, wherein the pres­i­dent first agreed to a group com­mu­nique on trade and then with­drew from it, calling the PM “dis­hon­est” and “weak” in a Twit­ter tirade. In any event, Trump seems more daz­zled about his oneon-one sit-down in Helsinki next week with Putin. Putin he re­spects, NATO lead­ers he doesn’t. “I have NATO. I have the U.K., which is in some­what tur­moil. And I have Putin. Putin may be the eas­i­est of them all. Who would think?” Who in­deed.

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