Canada’s defense spending fell short of NATO forecasts last year, alliance says

Canada is not as advanced on defense spending as NATO predicted last year, according to the latest annual report compiled by the NATO Secretary General.

The report, released Thursday in Brussels by the NATO Secretary General. Jens Stoltenberg, shows that Canada spent 1.36% of its gross domestic product on the military and new defense equipment in 2021.

This is down slightly from the 1.39% of GDP projected for Canada’s defense budget in the latest assessment of member nations of the Western Military Alliance, released last June.

NATO calls on its members to devote at least 2% of national GDP to their armed forces to keep them operational and equipped with modern technologies.

Out of 30 NATO countries, Canada ranks 25th in terms of military spending. After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, alliance members agreed to increase their defense budgets to bring them up to the baseline of 2% by 2024.

Stoltenberg said the allies had invested an additional $270 billion in their militaries since that pledge was made – and at last week’s emergency NATO leaders’ meeting to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many pledged to do more.

“The allies agreed that we needed to redouble our efforts to invest more and faster in our defense,” Stoltenberg said.

Canadian Forces members load lethal and non-lethal aid for Ukraine onto a transport plane at CFB Trenton on March 7. (Lars Hagberg/Reuters)

The Liberal government has staunchly avoided committing to the 2% target, preferring instead to focus on its 2017 commitment to increase defense spending to 1.5% of GDP by 2024-25.

To meet the NATO target, Canada’s defense budget would need to increase to about $58 billion, up from the $32 billion projected in the federal government’s defense policy almost five years ago.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked directly if his government was prepared to spend more than it had committed. He did not answer the question.

The new federal budget will be released on April 7. Defense Minister Anita Anand tried Thursday to manage expectations.

Defense Minister Anita Anand said the government was working to “support” NATO commitments “in kind”. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

“I think we also have to remember that Canada’s military contribution has to be recognized not only in terms of our commitments to NATO, but also in terms of our commitment to the current crisis in Ukraine,” she said. declared.

“We are working very hard to ensure that we support our NATO commitments in kind. We have recently increased or even doubled our human commitment in terms of Operation Reassurance. We are there on land, at sea and in the air for NATO and I am working on a robust modernization package for NORAD that will ensure that we continue to meet our military commitments.”

Canada faces increasing international pressure to make a strong dollar commitment to its military. Germany – a NATO ally that tends to align itself with Canada’s defense vision and pursue a more dovish approach to foreign policy – ​​has pledged to meet the 2% target in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.