Canada faces ‘tough’ NATO summit amid spending cuts, NORAD questions: experts – National
Canadian officials are likely to face a ‘tough’ summit from NATO leaders amid new data suggesting falling defense spending and growing public confusion over where the money for major upgrades is coming from promises of NORAD, warn the experts.
New figures from the military alliance suggest Canada is falling behind on its promise to meet a premier spending target as the size of the economy grows against promised new spending.
At the same time, the defense industry is growing increasingly frustrated with the government’s handling of a $4.9 billion announcement of upgrades to NORAD radars and surveillance systems.
“If the idea was to inspire confidence that everything is locked in, I think they did pretty much the opposite,” said David Perry, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and policy expert. defense.
« That’s basically going to make the summit a little bit more difficult, especially in the middle of a pretty complicated week and a bit, on what we’re doing in terms of continental defense and budget. »
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Perry said the government was trying to point out that defense spending was up.
Now, he says, the confusion is whether the government is actually adding new defense spending or « reshuffling things ».
Ranked as a percentage of GDP spending, Canada now ranks 24th out of 29 members of the NATO alliance. This marked a slight decline from 1.36% of GDP in defense last year to 1.27% today.
Canada is also in the midst of what the government frequently describes as a 70% increase in defense spending, first described in the 2017 defense policy reset.
Earlier this year, the federal budget also promised $8 billion in additional defense spending.
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The measure of spending as a percentage of GDP measures the total value spent relative to the size of a country’s economy — and Canada’s economy is growing.
Statistics Canada pegged GDP growth for 2021 at a « strong » 4.6%, compared with a 5.2% decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
This growth should continue to increase by 3.8% in 2022, then by 2.6% in 2023, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
When economic growth is stable, this provides a relatively stable measure to compare spending. But when economic growth is stronger than usual, it means that a promised chunk of change is suddenly subject to a much broader yardstick.
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But at a time when allies like Germany and Denmark are rapidly ramping up spending to hit that 2% target, Canada is likely to face more specific questions about its own plans — and the government hasn’t. answered in the last few days. when pressed by reporters for details.
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The source of the $4.9 billion pledged for NORAD upgrades is unclear, and Defense Minister Anita Anand’s office did not respond to multiple questions from Global News.
Anand initially told a press conference last week that the promised $4.9 billion was new money on top of the $8 billion increase in the defense budget planned in the last budget. federal.
His office corrected that shortly after and said the $4.9 billion came from the $8 billion.
« It makes this whole thing look like a staged event, » said Rob Huebert, an associate professor at the University of Calgary who specializes in Canadian defense policy.
Huebert said that if the money were to be redistributed from the existing defense budget, « that alone is worrying. »
« But the fact that the only real significance of why it was done was in anticipation of a NATO meeting that she then had to go to and at least pretend that Canada was taking defense seriously, that is just as scary. »
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General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defense Staff, told Global’s The west block Friday that he does not know where the promised $4.9 billion came from.
Sources told Global News that the military did not know where the funds came from and that meetings were taking place at the department to try to determine how much of the money was new.
These sources say there are fears the money is not new and will need to be recapitalized from the existing defense budget.
« I didn’t fully understand the source of funds for this myself, » Eyre said.
« So I can’t say for sure where it came from. I will say, however, that the announcement was welcome.
Eyre was also asked if the military is planning any departmental cuts so it can allocate $4.9 billion to NORAD upgrades.
“We have not considered cutting. But as always, we have to consider a rebalancing,” he said.
“The strength we have today is not the strength we need to sustain tomorrow. So we have to look at the force structure. Do we have it in the right place? Should we consider reviving units to take on more relevant roles for the future security environment? Its very important.
Perry described it as « pretty unusual » to have someone in the role of Eyre say he doesn’t know where the money came from.
He added: ‘I can’t think of a time when a chief of defense staff has come out for a major announcement with a minister and then a week later he’s basically expressing that he’s not really sure of the funding and where the funds are going to come from.
The lack of clarity speaks to a bigger problem for the government, Huebert suggested.
He specifically stressed the need for the government to provide clear answers on the details of its spending in light of both rising inflation and concerns about the economy, as well as the broader threat posed by Russia.
« It deals with the inability to be honest with Canadians about security, » he said. “How can we trust a government that doesn’t seem to be able to put its numbers together?
The NATO summit is expected to see the alliance discuss a major strategic shift to better deter and counter Russia, following its bloody and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February.
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