Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke up Saturday at the NATO 2016 Warsaw Summit to address President Barack Obama's criticisms of Canada's low defense spending. As reported by the Huffington Post, Obama spoke on June 30, before the summit, calling on Canada to pay its "full share" to NATO -- a remark that Prime Minister Trudeau appeared to agree with at the time. The pledge, signed in 2014, calls on the 28 NATO nations to stop cutbacks and spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense. It hasn't been met by many members of NATO, including Canada, which ranks 23 out of 28 on defense spending.
But PM Trudeau, according to the National Post, fired back, highlighting Canada's continued contributions to conflicts around the globe.
"We have always stepped up well above many other NATO partners to engage, and that's actually highlighted by our engagement around Operation Reassurance.Trudeau went on to suggest that there were more ways to contribute than simply spending more money -- possibly a fair stance to take, when Canada is set to contribute almost half of its troops, including the commanding officer, to a new battalion set to be stationed in Latvia and act as a deterrent against Russian aggression. The battalion is expected to remain for years, if not decades."We can organize some ice hockey games," joked Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis, meeting Trudeau for the first time at the summit, and referencing the two nations' shared passion for the game.
"We continue to be a valued and valuable partner in NATO, and I look forward to productive discussions in Warsaw with our NATO partners about how Canada can continue to contribute to peace and security in the world."
"You might regret that, you might regret that," Trudeau responded, laughing. "We're quite good. But I know you are, too."
All the same, it seems that Canada may need the pressure to perform under Trudeau's leadership. America, Britain, and Germany were all quick to sign on to play similar roles in countries along the Russian front, but Canada dragged their heels, only confirming their participation a day after President Obama told the Canadian Parliament that he hoped Canada would do more for NATO -- for the third time. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also pressured Canada to step up.
The Trudeau government has also drawn a lot of criticism for their willingness to discuss security issues with Russia. And Trudeau says that, while his government was open in discussing security with Russia, "Canada stands strongly with the people of Ukraine against the illegitimate actions of Russia."
Trudeau also announced on Saturday that the Canadian government will be shifting its priorities on spending in Afghanistan, providing more money for aid and development for the future and reducing funding for the Afghani national security forces, announcing $465 million in additional aid for Afghanistan over the next three years. $270 million is earmarked for economic and social assistance, while the remainder will assist Afghani military and police in their struggle against the Taliban.
Meanwhile, according to CTV, the (relatively new) Liberal government wants Canada to be more involved in NATO peacekeeping, and is presently working to develop a new national defense policy, which, when implemented, may raise defense spending; Canada's current defense policy has been in place for more than a decade and is sorely outdated.
[Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images]