MND responds to calls to increase defence spending
Canada's Minister of National Defence (MND) Harjit Sajjan in a teleconference from Brussels, where he had just wrapped up two days of meetings with his NATO counterparts, indicated Feb. 16 that while “every nation is doing its part” in the alliance, Canada will have to up its game.
He was responding to questions arising from U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis’ warning, a day earlier, that the new Republican administration in Washington is prepared to reduce its NATO commitments unless other countries increase theirs.
Sajjan said that he and Mattis underscored “the importance of the alliance and . . . the great support the U.S. has in NATO” as well as “the resources required or the impact that we (Canada) want to have in NATO.”
Asked specifically whether Canada’s commitment should be increased, the minister said that “spending by the previous government was low” and Canada’s involvements in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, coupled with an unspecified “peace and support operation that we are still considering” highlighted a need for more resources.
He said that once the government’s Defence Policy Review – now some 10 months in the making – had assessed what “our government eventually requires for our defence 20 years out . . . this will require defence investments.”
Asked then whether Mattis’ call for Canada and others to increase their defence budgets to two per cent of national gross domestic product was “fair or arbitrary”, Sajjan said there was general agreement at the ministerial summit that “more output” is contingent on more financial input.
“When we came into government, one thing that we committed to was making sure that not only we focus on output but also that we predictable planned investments into defence,” he added. “So, yes, will be investing” and he looked forward “to announcing that once it’s fully ratified through cabinet.”
Sajjan pointed out that there is continuous analysis of military commitments and resources. “It’s not just about making one decision about certain assets to put in, especially when it comes to our troops. We need to analyze things. This allows us to ensure that we have the right military capability for the coalition […] Canada will be able to look at making the adjustments necessary to making sure that we have a meaningful contribution to the coalition.”