First Barack Obama criticized NATO for being full of “free riders,” now Donald Trump calls the organization “obsolete.” Now, Angela Merkel has promised that Germany would spend more on its military to meet the alliance’s target figure for defence expenditures for its member nations: at least two-per-cent of gross domestic product.
Europe’s economic engine — which now spends just 1.2 per cent of GDP on defense — intends to expand the Bundeswehr by 20 per cent over the next few years and to invest $130 billion in new equipment. There is all-party agreement in France to spend a lot more on defense, too, while thanks to spending increases and some creative accounting Britain already claims to have met the two-per-cent goal.
And quasi-neutral Sweden, which is to increase defense spending by as much as 50 per cent over the next five years, and is mulling joining NATO, announced Thursday that it is bringing back conscription because of fears about what Russia’s Vladimir Putin is up to in northern Europe.
What is happening with Canada’s wealthiest NATO partners puts Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a tough spot. Expect a lot more huffing and puffing about Canada’s unshakeable commitment to the alliance when the next federal budget is tabled in Parliament this month, but it is expected to contain only a modest increase in defense spending. Guesses circulating in Ottawa suggest it will be somewhere between $400 million and $700 million a year.