Canada declines to raise defense spending above 2 percent NATO benchmark

Dec. 2 (UPI) — As leaders of NATO countries prepare to convene in London, Canada remains below the benchmark of two percent of GDP, NATO data indicate.

Each NATO member nation agreed in 2014 to spend two percent of its gross domestic product on defense, but statistics released Friday indicate that Canada will spend 1.31 percent of its GDP on defense in 2019, a figure similar to that of 2018.

The data places Canada 20th on the list. Nine countries — the United States, Bulgaria, Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland — currently meet or exceed the two percent level, the U.S. carrying the highest percentage of all 29 NATO members and Luxembourg with the lowest.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been a frequent critic of allies underspending on defense, and especially as it relates to NATO members. The topic is expected to surface at the summit, which begins Tuesday and celebrates the 70th anniversary of the military bloc’s founding.

“President Trump is right about the importance of European allies and Canada spending more,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday, “and he has conveyed that message very clearly to allies several times. But European allies and Canada should not invest in defense to please President Trump. They should invest in defense because we are faced with new threats and new challenges.”

Forecasts by the Canadian government show the expectation of defense spending to remain at about 1.4 percent of GDP through 2025. It would need to spend $ 11 billion more on defense to qualify for the two percent benchmark.

The government has pointed to Canadian leadership of a battle group stationed in Latvia, aircraft stationed in Romania, the use of Canadian training planes in Iraq and a frigate in the Mediterranean Sea as examples of its commitment to NATO.

NATO members also agreed in 2014 to dedicate 20 percent of defense spending to the purchase of equipment. Canada expects its proportion of 11.9 percent for equipment to rise to 13.3 percent in 2019, but it still will rank 24th in the category.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will likely be targeted for criticism by NATO leaders for other concerns. An initiative led by the United States called the “Four 30s” plan — with NATO countries prepared to reinforce Europe with 30 battalions of soldiers, 30 squadrons of aircraft and 30 warships within 30 days — would require Canada to invest more in its military’s state of readiness.

Canada has also welcomed the 5G telecommunications network of the Chinese company Huawei, which the United States seeks to keep out of the security grids of NATO countries.

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