NATO’s Stoltenberg calls on Canada to act on defense
NATO Secretary General praises Canada for investments in defense systems in the North, but also says it’s important for Canada to keep its promises to spend 2% of its GDP on defense in order to meet its commitments towards the covenant.
Jens Stoltenberg concluded his two-day visit to Nunavut and Alberta on Friday, after touring the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, meeting with Indigenous elders and community leaders, and seeing members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the ‘Royal Canadian Air Force.
Stoltenberg also visited a North Warning System site, part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad). The Liberal government announced in June that it was carrying out the most significant upgrade to NORAD in forty years.
During a press conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Cold Lake, Alta., on Friday, Stoltenberg stressed the importance of strengthening defenses in the Arctic because « the shortest route to North America for Russian missiles and bombers would pass through the North Pole ». ”
In an exclusive interview aired with CTV News Alberta bureau chief Bill Fortier, Stoltenberg said that while conflict might not start in the Arctic, he could easily move there « because of its strategic importance for the covenant ».
Both Stoltenberg and Trudeau stressed the importance of investing in northern defense in light of what Stoltenberg called « the significant Russian military buildup in the High North. »
He says that while he recognizes all the work Canada is doing with NATO in Latvia, the Baltic Sea and Romania – in addition to its recent investments in Norad – he still expects all allies of NATO are investing more.
“Canada has increased its defense spending over the past few years, which has also allowed it to announce significant new investments, for example in new combat aircraft and the modernization of Norad,” he said. . “Other allies are also mobilizing and starting to invest more. We welcome that. But of course, I expect all of us, including Canada, to meet the commitments that we all agreed to spend — 2% of GDP on defence.
Below is a full transcript of the interview with CTV News’ Bill Fortier. Transcript has been edited for clarity.
Bill Fortier: You toured yesterday and you are the first NATO Secretary General to visit the North. Were you satisfied with what you saw in terms of what Canada is doing in the North and what Canada is spending in the North?
Jens Stoltenberg: “Canada is doing a very important job for the whole alliance in the North providing everything that you do in Norad, providing situational awareness, radar, but also being able to react if something dangerous happens there -high. I also welcome, of course, Canada’s decision to modernize Norad, which is so important not only for Canada and North America, but for the entire alliance. And then also, I would like to congratulate Canada not only for having invested in military capabilities, which are of course important for NATO and for the alliance, but also in knowledge to understand in particular the consequences of climate change in the North.
Bill Fortier: What Canada is doing in the North doesn’t even compare at all to what Russia is doing in its Arctic. You mentioned it several times. So clearly this is a concern for NATO. In your opinion, what is the reality of the threat of Russian aggression in the Arctic?
Jens Stoltenberg: « I think it’s dangerous to speculate, but what we’re seeing is a major Russian military build-up in the High North with new weapons systems, with advanced missiles, they’re testing modern nuclear weapons, including missiles So of course we’ll have to take this seriously. I think not many people believe that conflict will start in the Far North, but a conflict can easily shift to the Far North because of its strategic importance to the entire alliance, but also because it’s actually the shortest route from Russia to North America. So of course what Canada is doing is important, and we welcome both the decision to modernize Norad, to invest in fifth-generation aircraft — but also, of course, that other allies get involved: the United States, but also other NATO allies in the Arctic. and Sweden will join the alliance, seven of the eight Arctic countries will be NATO allies.
Bill Fortier: You said the shortest distance for missiles to get here is over the north. It’s a scary thought that we haven’t really talked about or heard about in Canada since the 1980s. What more does Canada need to do right now, other than build up a radar system where we can see these things happen? Does Canada need ships in the water, more of them need boots on the ground in the North? Does Canada need aircraft to monitor and respond to a threat? What more would you like Canada to do in the North?
Jens Stoltenberg: “I am delighted that Canada has decided to modernize Norad, which is the key tool not only to detect but also to react if something is happening in the Far North. I am now based in Cold Lake where we have the tactical air force, which will play a key role in responding to any attack on North America. Second, of course, more advanced systems, for example the decision to invest in fifth-generation aircraft by Canada, will protect Canada, but also North America and all of NATO. Ships, intelligence, surveillance capabilities, all of that is important. Canada has announced other investments. We welcome that. But you also know that Canada is one of the many Arctic countries in the alliance. I therefore also welcome the fact that we are working more closely together as allies in the High North. »
Bill Fortier: These are things Canada is doing, but do you think Canada needs to do more than it has already promised?
Jens Stoltenberg: « Well, the allies are stepping up in the Far North and that kind of reflects the fact that the allies recognize that we have to do more, because the strategic importance of the Far North is increasing, in part because of the military buildup of Russia, partly because of China’s growing interest in the Far North, partly because of climate change — which is making the Far North more accessible and altering the current climatic conditions in our North. Canada, but also other allies, to make the decision to step in. So I think the most important thing is that we now deliver on what we all promised as NATO allies.
Bill Fortier: Speaking of that, you’re being diplomatic here in Canada, but in the past you’ve said that 2%. 100 of GDP spent on defense is the base. That shouldn’t be the goal. This is where we should start and Canada is not even close to it. Did you raise that? And is it disappointing for you? Diplomacy aside, does Canada need to reach that 2%?
Jens Stoltenberg: “Canada has increased its defense spending over the past few years, which has also allowed it to announce significant new investments, for example, in new combat aircraft and the modernization of Norad. Other allies are also stepping up their efforts and have started to invest more, we welcome that. But of course, I expect all of us, including Canada, to meet the commitments that we all agreed to spend, which is 2% of GDP on defence.
Bill Fortier: And now Canada has pledged $5 billion in the short term for these Norad upgrades that you talked about and talked about, almost $40 billion over the next 20 years. Is the need more urgent than that? Is the need now, is the risk and threat now? Does some of that money need to be spent faster?
Jens Stoltenberg: “We are in constant dialogue with all allies on the exact capabilities we expect from different allies. We are working with Canada, we are working with other allies, to make sure they deliver those capabilities on time. Canada is stepping up its efforts, both with respect to the High North, but Canada also contributes to NATO in many other ways that are important for security, including [with the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group] NATO has in Latvia, ships in the Baltic Sea, and also more presence in Romania. I would therefore like to commend Canada for its contribution to NATO in so many different ways and we expect Canada, like other allies, to invest more.
Bill Fortier: You are clearly an expert in diplomacy and in respecting the sovereign decisions made by these countries that are part of NATO, but Canada has withdrawn from the ballistic missile defense systems that the United States has built. In your opinion, based on what you see happening in the world, does Canada need a ballistic missile defense system?
Jens Stoltenberg: “I have confidence that Canada and the United States are capable of finding the best way to organize the defense of North American territory, and I welcome the very close cooperation between the United States and Canada and Norad. It’s unique that two countries can work so closely together as the United States and Canada do under Norad, and I’m glad that Norad is being modernized. That’s what I’m going to say about it now because I also know there’s constant dialogue among NATO allies about how best to work together.