Sooner or later, every NATO country will have to meet defence spending target, says Polish PM

27 February 2024
Sooner or later, every NATO country will have to meet defence spending target, says Polish PM

All members of NATO will eventually have to fulfil the pledge to spend two per cent of their GDP on defence, Poland’s prime minister said on Monday at the conclusion of a meeting in Warsaw with his Canadian counterpart.

While praising Canada as one of Poland’s “best allies,” Donald Tusk delicately avoided criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s refusal to publicly commit to the alliance benchmark — something all 31 NATO members agreed to at last summer’s leaders’ summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“I don’t want to break the rules of hospitality, but I’m convinced that sooner or later [meeting the target] will take place in every NATO member country,” said Tusk.

Canada has been under increasing public pressure from allies — such as the United States and the secretary general of NATO — to lay out a plan to meet the two per cent of GDP target. This could require the federal government to invest perhaps as much as $18 billion a year more on top of the roughly $28.9 billion that’s already being appropriated.
Donald Trump, the former U.S. president and likely Republican nominee, has said he’d encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell it wants” to NATO countries that don’t invest enough in their own defence.

Tusk said the issue is not about responding to Trump’s threats, it’s about meeting assurances allies have made among themselves.

“So, the simplest answer is that we all, with no exceptions, fulfil those requirements,” Tusk said. “It’s not because some politician wants it or not. It’s because it’s our commitment, so we should do it.”

‘We know there is more to do’

In a message mostly directed to Poland’s European allies,Tusk also said it’s important for NATO countries to exceed Russia’s defence capacity.

At the moment, Poland leads the Western alliance in terms of defence investment. It is spending 3.9 per cent of its GDP on the military, a figure that outstrips the United States, which devotes roughly 3.5 per cent of its economic output toward defence.

Canada, on the other hand, sets aside 1.38 per cent.

The Washington Post, quoting leaked documents, reported last year that Trudeau had told NATO allies Canada would never meet the two per cent target.

Standing next to Tusk on Monday, Trudeau stuck with his well-worn statement that Canada is a strong supporter of NATO — it always shows up and has the seventh-largest defence budget in the alliance. But he avoided making a specific pledge of meeting the target, or even having a plan to do so.

“We know there is more to do and we are doing it,” Trudeau said, while noting the Liberal government’s recent string of equipment announcements, including the purchase of F-35 fighters from the U.S.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre recently said that if elected, his government would “work towards” the alliance benchmark, which is what former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government also pledged in 2014, when allies originally crafted their response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea.

The slow pace of procurement

One of the biggest obstacles to Canada meeting the NATO target is the glacial pace of defence procurement.

During the 2019 federal election, both the Liberals and the Conservatives pledged to reform the defence acquisition system.

The governing Liberals proposed to create a single government organization — Defence Procurement Canada — to “ensure that Canada’s biggest and most complex defence procurement projects are delivered on time and with greater transparency to Parliament.”

The Conservatives, on the other hand, pledged to “de-politicize” defence procurement and create a cabinet committee as well as a Defence Procurement Secretariat within the Privy Council Office “to ensure that priority projects are progressing on time and budget.”

What it boils down to, a number of defence experts say, is the inability of successive governments to deliver equipment on time and spend the money Parliament allocates, which impacts where Canada ranks in NATO in terms of spending.

Source: cbc

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