Trudeau insists Canada spending enough on defence, as Trump declares victory at NATO
Canada's PM reacts to Trump saying he convinced NATO allies to increase contributions
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada hasn't committed to spending new money on defence, despite U.S. President Donald Trump's comments that he convinced NATO allies to dramatically hike spending.
Instead, Trudeau said at the wrap of the summit in Brussels that Canada has reaffirmed its commitment to work toward contributing two per cent of its gross domestic product to military spending — the military alliance's benchmark —and reverse any cuts.
Trudeau said Canada has been "taking the right approach" on defence spending, pointing to the Liberals' plans to increase the defence budget by 70 per cent over the next decade to $32.7 billion.
"The president has been consistent that he wants to see people spending more on defence in their countries and we are very pleased we are doing that," Trudeau told reporters.
"We'll always step up, with cash yes but also with commitments and capacity. That's what NATO is looking for."
Trudeau went into the summit saying Canada was not prepared to double its defence budget to meet the NATO target.
New figures released by the military alliance just ahead of the summit show Canada only hits 1.23 per cent of GDP.
Trump said Thursday he had convinced NATO allies to increase defence spending to meet the alliance's benchmark and perhaps go higher.
He spoke at the closing of the two-day summit, which was punctuated with insults, arguments and high drama behind closed doors.
"It all came together in the end," Trump said.
He went into the meeting questioning the value of the 70-year-old institution, but came out extolling its solidarity and the willingness of leaders to co-operate, work together and bow to his wishes.
Trump pushes for 4% benchmark
Trump claimed he had done what other presidents had failed to do by pushing leaders to agree to higher spending.
By all indications, the morning session of NATO leaders from 29 nations was stormy.
Trump upended the meeting Wednesday by insisting all members increase their military spending this year to two per cent of their GDP — a standard established 16 years ago but rarely met by most of NATO, including Canada.
Trump upped the ante late Wednesday by saying the benchmark should actually be four per cent.
Behind closed doors, Trump apparently went further Thursday.
It was enough for NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to call a quick emergency session of leaders.
"The commitment was at two per cent. Ultimately that'll be going up much higher," Trump said without providing many specifics.
He said Stoltenberg will provide the figures later.
"We are doing numbers like they have never done before," Trump said.
Germany's pipeline deal questioned
The U.S. president had tweeted Wednesday that he wondered about the value of NATO when one of its biggest members — Germany — was involved in a major pipeline deal with Russia.
Some U.S. commentators suggested Trump is focusing his attention on the $11-billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline deal to deflect criticism that he is too cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump, however, is not alone in questioning the deal.
Canada and European allies are worried.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said there are significant Western sanctions against Russia for a reason.
"Canada believes in those sanctions," she said Wednesday.
"Those sanctions will and need to stay in place as long as Russia's illegal actions remain in force. When it comes to Nord Stream, Canada has significant concerns about that project."
On Wednesday, the prime minister held an "informal" chat with Trump, in what a Trudeau aide described as a positive talk focused on trade, the ongoing NAFTA renegotiations, and how the recent election of Mexico's new left-leaning populist president might impact those negotiations.