Welcoming Sweden and Finland into NATO will put additional pressure on Canada to increase its own defense spending and contributions to the military alliance, experts say.
The two Nordic countries were formally invited to join the alliance on Wednesday, marking one of the biggest shifts in European security in decades after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Helsinki and Stockholm to abandon their tradition of neutrality.
Once the decision is ratified and Sweden and Finland add their well-trained armies to NATO ranks, “the question will be why Canada, one of the wealthiest countries on the planet… does not improve our ability to protect our sovereignty,” Aurel said. Braun, professor of political science at the University of Toronto.
“Right now, what we are contributing is not enough.”
NATO defense spending target applies to all allies, including Canada: Stoltenberg
Canada has yet to publicly commit to meeting the alliance’s goal that all members spend at least 2% of national gross domestic product on defence, which was first agreed in 2014. .
New figures released by NATO on Monday predict that Canada’s defense spending will fall as a percentage of GDP to 1.27% this year, from 1.32% last year and 1.42% in 2020.
Speaking on Wednesday at a NATO summit in Spain attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his foreign and military ministers, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said all countries should deal the 2% target as “the floor, not the ceiling”, as the world becomes more dangerous amid Russia’s aggression.
Stoltenberg told reporters he understands the desire to spend taxpayer dollars on health care, education and infrastructure. But he added that he still expects “all allies to adhere to the guidelines we have established” for defense spending, “including Canada.”
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Braun agrees that social spending is important, but says Sweden and Finland are proof that countries with strong social safety nets can also meet NATO targets. Finland already spends more than 2% of its GDP on defence, while Sweden has publicly pledged to reach the same threshold by 2028.
“So what is (Canada) waiting for?” He asked.
Canada on Wednesday signed an agreement to transform the NATO battle group it leads in Latvia into a brigade, which means doubling the number of troops to between 3,000 and 5,000.
However, the government says it is too early to confirm whether this will result in the deployment of additional Canadian troops as part of the upgrade.
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NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance as Russia is seen as a ‘direct threat’
Robert Baines, president of the NATO Association of Canada, said the announcement of an enhanced force in Latvia demonstrates Canada’s commitment to the alliance.
“This is a strong message of continued support for NATO that will allow Canada to draw attention to the capabilities and contributions that the Canadian Armed Forces make to NATO operations and will help balance the lackluster metric of our low defense spending,” he said. in a report.
Pressed on Canada’s defense spending on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Canadians can be proud of the country’s work in NATO and in the wider Ukraine conflict, and underscored the role of diplomacy in the response to Russian aggression.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer said in a report released this month that the federal government would need to spend an additional $75.3 billion on defense over the next five years if Canada is to meet the NATO goal of 2% of GDP.
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Earlier this year, the federal budget promised $8 billion in additional defense spending, part of what the government frequently describes as a 70% increase in defense spending, first described in the reset of the 2017 defense policy.
Yet there are still questions about how much of that $8 billion — if any — will be used for the $4.9 billion in NORAD radar and surveillance system upgrades announced last week.
General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defense Staff, told Global News ‘ The west block last week that he does not know where this money for NORAD is coming from.
Increased defense spending focused on NORAD is deemed necessary to protect Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic and counter efforts by Russia and China to assert a greater presence in the region.
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Braun says Sweden and Finland will be able to help Canada and the rest of NATO on this front, while limiting Russian aggression elsewhere.
“These are two Arctic states … which will also prevent Russia from turning the Baltic Sea into a Russian lake,” he said, noting that Finland itself shares a border with Russia.
“It completely changes the regional image.”
The inclusion of Sweden and Finland in NATO will also mean that every member of the Arctic Council – except Russia – will be a member of the military alliance, further weakening Moscow’s influence.
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“One of President Putin’s most important messages … was that he was against any further NATO expansion,” Stoltenberg said on Tuesday evening. “He wanted less NATO. Now President Putin has more NATO on his borders.
Braun made a similar argument.
“They were pushed into it,” he said, referring to Sweden and Finland.
“It tells us that not only does Russia have an agency, that Russia is not a victim, but Russia has succeeded in alienating two countries that worked so hard to have good relations that Russia became a state thug.”
— With files from Amanda Connolly of Global and The Canadian Press
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