The Canadian government would have to double its current defense spending in its next budget to meet the basic requirements of NATO membership.
Canada currently spends approximately $20 billion on defense, or 1.02 percent of its gross domestic product. NATO requires that all members contribute two percent of total GDP, yet only five of its 28 members are estimated to have reached that goal in 2016. The U.S. is NATO’s biggest spender, with 3.61 percent of GDP going toward defense.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has made ensuring each member reaches the two percent mark a priority, yet Canada only increased defense spending from 0.98 to 1.02 percent in 2016. The small increase pushed Canada from 23rd to 20th in terms of spending among the allies.
“All our efforts must be underpinned by adequate resources and fair burden-sharing,” said Stoltenberg, while speaking in Brussels during the release of his annual report Monday. “It is realistic that all allies should reach this goal. All allies have agreed to do it at the highest level. It can be done.”
President Donald Trump has also criticized NATO members’ lack of defense spending, noting that the alliance is important, but that costs much be shared.
“A lot of these countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States,” said Trump in January. “With that being said, NATO is very important to me. There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much.”
Canadian Prime Minister defended his country’s low defense spending last month on a visit to Germany.
“There are many ways of evaluating one’s contribution to NATO,” he claimed.
That may not be enough for Stoltenberg, who is the former prime minister of Norway, and therefore intimately familiar with the difficulties associated with budgets. He acknowledged defense spending is not always preferable, but that it must be done when the need is high.
“But my message is that if we are decreasing defense spending in times with reduced tensions, we have to be able to increase defense spending when tensions are going up and now tensions have gone up,” said Stoltenberg.
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