NATO head urges Canada, other allies to do more on defence commitments

NATO's secretary general says he expects Canada and other allies to meet their defence spending commitments. In an interview Sunday on CBC's Rosemary Barton Live, Jens Stoltenberg said he welcomes Canada's "renewed focus" on defence spending.

Canada has not spent more than 2% of its GDP on defence in decades

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is shown at a news conference after a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine commission in Brussels on Feb. 22. In an interview Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live, he said he expects Canada and other allies aim at two per cent of GDP in spending on defence. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says he appreciates Canada's commitments so far, but expects all allies "to do more" and follow up on pledges to spend at least two per cent of gross domestic product on defence.

Stoltenberg stopped short of explicitly asking for Canada to hit that mark in its upcoming federal budget, referring instead to previous NATO agreements dating back to 2014 that commit allies to increase spending and focus on a GDP target of two per cent.

"We have an agreement and I expect all allies, also Canada, to follow up on that — that we should aim at two per cent of GDP, because we live in a world which is more dangerous," Stoltenberg said in an interview Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

"I welcome the renewed focus from the Canadian government on the need to further increase defence spending," Stoltenberg told guest host Catherine Cullen.

WATCH | NATO secretary general on alliance's support for Ukraine, defence spending:

NATO must prevent Russia-Ukraine conflict escalation, secretary general says

7 months ago
Duration 8:28
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg set up this week's anticipated NATO summit in Brussels on Rosemary Barton Live, and how the alliance is responding to Russia's invasion in Ukraine. Stoltenberg said NATO must support Ukraine, but also prevent the conflict from escalating into a 'full-fledged war' beyond the nation.

The NATO head was asked repeatedly about the level of spending he hoped to see from Canada, given Defence Minister Anita Anand saying this week that she was putting forward several options for spending to cabinet. 

Anand also told CBC's Power & Politics this week that Canada had "exhausted" the inventory of equipment in the Canadian Armed Forces that could be supplied to Ukraine.

"I'm confident that Canada will follow up," Stoltenberg said.

Questions over Canadian spending come as NATO leaders are set to meet next week to discuss the war in Ukraine, as well as the future of NATO strategy in Europe. Stoltenberg said Canada had stepped up to aid the alliance, noting the commitment of 3,400 troops to NATO's response force, its leadership of a battle group in Latvia and Saturday's departure of HMCS Halifax as part of a NATO deployment.

"But, of course, there is a need to do more, and that's also a reason why I believe that at the summit next week, we will also start a discussion not only about the immediate response to the crisis in Ukraine, but also how we should adopt and to reset our deterrence and defence for the longer term as a result of this brutal war that is taking place in Ukraine."

Stoltenberg said NATO had a dual responsibility in the situation: supporting Ukraine, but also ensuring the conflict did not spread further.

U.S. says it will not intervene directly

Concern about potential escalation has been a constant theme from the United States and NATO more broadly since the start of the conflict in late February.

Asked whether NATO could be involved in securing corridors for humanitarian aid or evacuation, Stoltenberg said it was Putin who was responsible for the brutality of the war.

"But NATO will not be present on the ground and [will] not send in planes in the Ukrainian airspace, because that will most likely trigger a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia."

WATCH | State Department official discusses war in Ukraine:

'All NATO countries need to step up,' U.S. State Department official says

7 months ago
Duration 7:40
U.S. State Department official Derek Chollet said the world is in a 'new reality' after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Appearing on Rosemary Barton Live, he said all NATO nations need to step up their collective defense needs and support for Ukraine — including a commitment to help rebuild the nation after the war ends.

Derek Chollet, a senior adviser in the U.S. State Department, echoed that sentiment in an interview that aired Sunday.

"President [Joe] Biden's been very clear that the U.S. military is not going to be involved directly in the Ukraine conflict, but that's why we are so focused on providing them these defensive needs that they require, like these anti-armour and anti-aircraft weapons."

  • What questions do you have about Russia's invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to ask@cbc.ca

Chollet said further escalation in the conflict, such as the use of chemical weapons by Russia, would elicit "vast consequences," citing further economic sanctions but not committing to military action.

"But it's quite clear that this would cross a threshold in the international community."

Chollet said the United States would be conducting an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Russian forces, after both Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken levied accusations to that effect.

Chollet also told Cullen he hopes Canada and other allies would fulfil the pledge to spend two per cent of GDP on defence.

"We've seen some countries like Germany, for example, make a very bold step to increase its defence budget ... And one would hope that Canada would make the same decision."

Champagne pleased to see 'aggressive options'

Canadian Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Sunday he's pleased to see the options put forward by his cabinet colleague, but acknowledged there were more ways to contribute to NATO than raw spending.

"Certainly, I'm one of those who thinks that the events that we've seen are calling for us to reassess what we're doing," he told Cullen.

"We've always had a meaningful contribution, but certainly I'm very pleased to see that [Anand] will be bringing aggressive options to see what we can do more with respect to defence in our country."

WATCH: No movement from NATO on Ukraine's request for a no-fly zone:

NATO response unclear if Putin launches chemical, nuclear weapons

7 months ago
Duration 2:04
As experts raise concerns over the potential for Russian President Vladimir Putin to deploy chemical and nuclear weapons in his invasion of Ukraine, it's still not clear how NATO would respond to such an escalation.

Champagne has been working with companies in Canada as part of a wider push by the international community that has seen major corporations halt or restrict operations in Russia. He said given the conflict and the fact "the rule of law has been eroded" in Russia, the economic consequences of its invasion could be long lasting.

"I think things are never going to be the same ... I would say that people would be reconsidering doing any operations in Russia for a long, long time."

  • What questions do you have about Russia's invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to ask@cbc.ca