NATO undergoes biggest overhaul since Cold War, but Canada’s role remains unclear

MADRID — Russian troops invaded Ukraine on the morning of February 24, invading by land and sea as airstrikes rained down on cities, in an all-out attack unprecedented in Europe since World War II.

The months that followed left thousands dead, millions more displaced, led to starvation and fuel shortages, and fundamentally changed the world order.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is now set to undertake the biggest overhaul of the alliance’s deterrence capabilities since the Cold War at a leaders’ summit in Spain, but Canada’s role in the new strategy defense remains uncertain.

NATO leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, gathered in Madrid for the historic summit to discuss how they will respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia has launched new attacks on civilians in the country – most recently with a missile strike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, on Monday that killed at least 18 people.

NATO has steadily beefed up its presence since first hints of a possible invasion in January, effectively using force to deter Russia from fighting with an allied nation.

If Russia were to enter NATO territory, it would trigger an all-out international war between dozens of countries, as an attack on one allied nation is considered an attack on all 30.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has touted Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO as one of the justifications for the invasion.

At the G7 in Germany’s Bavarian Alps, Chancellor Olaf Sholz outlined the fine line leaders must walk.

« We’re making tough decisions, » Sholz said, speaking to the media during a walk around the G7 summit site with Trudeau on Monday.

« We are also careful to help Ukraine as much as possible, but we also avoid a big conflict between Russia and NATO. »

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has signaled that more troops are now needed and that increased readiness will be needed to keep Russia at bay.

Canada’s main contribution to the front against Russia is in Latvia, a Baltic nation along Russia’s western border, where Canada has led a 2,000-strong battle group since 2017.

Similar units led by Germany, Britain and the United States are spread across the southern Baltic Sea coast.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO members agreed to create four more battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, extending the alliance’s eastern front to the black Sea.

Earlier this week, Stoltenberg said the number of troops in those battle groups would double to between 3,000 and 5,000.

The alliance is also dramatically increasing the number of forces that would be ready to react quickly in the event of a full-scale war from 40,000 to 300,000.

The question is whether Canada will provide these troops and the funds to keep them ready for action.

« It does seem like the alliance is looking to make some concrete announcements about increasing real capabilities, about better preparing the alliance, and I’m interested to see whether or not we have more gas left in that reservoir. particular, » David said. Perry, defense and foreign policy analyst for the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Trudeau said that’s what he will talk about with other leaders.

“We, like others, are making plans to be able to move quickly,” Trudeau said during a press briefing following the G7 summit in Germany on Tuesday.

But Canada is already breaking its promise to NATO to spend 2% of its gross domestic product on military defence.

Members of the 30-member military alliance agreed on the goal in 2014, and it is expected to be front and center when leaders meet on Wednesday.

A report by Stoltenberg estimates that Canada’s defense spending will instead decline as a percentage of GDP to 1.27% this year, down from 1.32% last year and 1.42% in 2020.

Leaders should also discuss an exit plan from the war, said Robert Baines of the NATO Association of Canada.

« I think NATO leaders said, ‘Well, we’re with Ukraine as long as Ukraine needs us.’ And then trying to square the circle and say, OK, so there’s no exit strategy. It’s always difficult,” Baines said.

The summit will also welcome new potential partners in Europe and Asia. Delegations from Sweden and Finland, which have applied to join NATO, will attend, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol will be the first leaders of their respective countries to attend a summit of NATO.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 29, 2022.

— With files from Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press


Back to top button