Canada can’t hit NATO’s target

Every friend group has that one buddy that’s happy to have all the fun but let someone else foot the bill. In NATO, Canada might be that guy.  

What happened: Justin Trudeau reportedly told NATO officials that Canada would never meet the alliance’s target for member nations to spend at least 2% of their annual GDP on defence, per a leaked Pentagon document obtained by The Washington Post. 

  • Since NATO established the pledge in 2006, Canada has never reached that target and currently only spends ~1.29% of its GDP on defence.
  • To be fair, Canada’s not alone. Just seven of NATO’s 30 members in 2022 hit the target, with names like France, Germany, and Norway all falling short. 

Zoom out: The document also says Germany is concerned about Canada’s ability to continue supporting Ukraine while juggling NATO commitments and that Turkey is upset that the Canadian military didn’t do more to support aid during February’s deadly earthquake.

Why it matters: Per the document, Canada’s skimpy defence spending is hindering its military capabilities and hurting ties with its most important security partners, which could lead to Canada’s biggest allies leaving it on read. In fact, that’s already happened.

  • In 2021, Canada was left out of AUKUS, a security pact between Australia, the US, and the UK focused on the Indo-Pacific, an increasingly important region for Canada.
  • The document also raises concerns about Canada’s military readiness, citing the Air Force’s pilot shortage and the continued underdevelopment of Arctic defences.  

Yes, but: Experts have called NATO’s catch-all 2% target a “lousy metric” because it doesn’t have any stipulations as to how that money is spent. Ultimately, Canada is still a trusted ally making military investments in things like new fighter jets and updating NORAD.—QH