Monday 31 July 2023

GOP Senator Calls Trudeau, Canada, A Military ‘Free-Rider’ Over NATO Commitment

 A Republican senator is calling out Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over his country’s contribution to NATO. 

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) made the comments on Sunday during an interview on “The Cats Roundtable” talk show with host John Catsimatidis. Sullivan said Canada isn’t “even close” to the NATO minimum goal of countries spending 2% of GDP on defense and said the prime minister had been overheard saying Canada won’t ever reach that mark. 

“There was a Wall Street Journal editorial last week that I fully agreed with, and the title was ‘Canada is a military free-rider in NATO,’” Sullivan said. ““It’s true, I hate to say it, because I’m a fan of the Canadians.”

“But with regard to the NATO-member agreed-upon requirements — to hit 2% of gross domestic product on defense … Canada is one of the biggest laggards,” he added. “Not even close. A little bit above 1.3%.” 

The Wall Street Journal op-ed Sullivan referenced explained Canada’s failure to commit the minimum to NATO and said, based on Canada’s mere 1.38% of GDP contribution, Trudeau deserved a spot at the “junior table” at the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, that took place earlier this month. 

Canada is sixth from the bottom — out of 31 countries — on defense spending as a share of GDP, according to the outlet. As for spending on military equipment, including weapons, the country ranks seventh lowest. 

Sullivan attended the NATO Summit, where he says he repeatedly heard from other attendees that Canada was actively trying to “dodge” its 2% commitment. He also claimed that Trudeau had been overheard saying “he’s never going to hit” the goal. 

Trudeau, for his part, recently defended his country’s contribution to NATO and said it would “step up” efforts. 

“We’ve invested massively in NORAD modernization just earlier this year. We’re continuing to step up in our NATO commitments,” he told Anchorage Daily News last week. “We’re going to continue to step up in this time of increased concerns around security everywhere around the world.”

Nearly a decade ago, in 2014, NATO members agreed to increase spending to a goal of 2% of their GDP on defense by 2024, according to Reuters. Just 11 countries meet that target now, the outlet notes, including the United States, Britain, Poland, Greece, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Latvia, and Slovakia.


Canada is one of six countries that spends less than 1.4% of its GDP on NATO defense, along with Slovenia, Turkey, Spain, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

At the summit earlier this month, NATO member nations issued a statement that said they “make an enduring commitment to invest at least 2% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually on defence,” and that, in some cases, spending beyond 2% is necessary to “remedy existing shortfalls” and meet other requirements.

When he was in office, former President Donald Trump repeatedly criticized NATO countries for failing to meet the 2% target and told members to contribute more. During the NATO Summit in 2018, Trump said, “I think these countries have to step it up, not over a 10-year period, but they have to step it up immediately.”

From 2016 to 2020, non-U.S. NATO allies increased defense spending by roughly $50 billion, suggesting Trump’s efforts may have played a role in the increase, according to the Heritage Foundation.

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