by Elinor Sloan
The Globe and Mail
July 10, 2018
The lead-up to this week’s NATO Summit in Brussels has been marked by growing uncertainty as to the future of the alliance. U.S. President Donald Trump has denounced countries such as Canada and Germany, among others, that have failed to put in place a plan to spend 2 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence, as first agreed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization members in 2006 and again in 2014. In the United States, which spends about 3.6 per cent of its GDP on defence, frustration has been growing for years. Under Mr. Trump, it is boiling over.
The United States is unlikely to leave Europe any time soon. In January, it released a national-defence strategy that relegated terrorism to second spot in terms of threats to America. The new number one threat? Great-power competition from Russia and China. Since then, the U.S. has increased its military commitment to Europe. It is resurrecting its navy fleet in the North Atlantic, sending more tanks and heavy vehicles to Poland and the Baltics, and building new infrastructure in Europe to support advanced fighters and bombers. Beneath the virulent rhetoric, the military evidence is that the United States remains committed to European security.
But the escalating debate and condemnation has also laid bare that allies are not equally sharing the monetary burden of fielding the militaries that are ultimately needed for deterrence and defence. Currently, only a handful of allies meet the 2-per-cent target, while others have plans to do so in the medium term. In Strong, Secure and Engaged, the defence policy released in 2017, Canada committed to increasing its defence spending to 1.4 per cent by fiscal year 2024-25 − nowhere near the 2-per-cent guideline.