Trudeau, NATO Leaders Meet in Brussels

Trudeau, NATO Leaders Meet in Brussels

Flags of NATO member countries flutter during the 2017 NATO summit in Brussels. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

July 11, 2018 9:03amET

As NATO leaders gather in Brussels today and tomorrow for their annual summit, military budgets figure to play a large role.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been blunt in demanding more defence spending by other NATO countries:

The “2% commitment” refers to a 2014 pledge by NATO members to devote at least two per cent of national GDP to defence spending by 2024:

  • Allies currently meeting the 2% guideline on defence spending will aim to continue to do so;
  • Allies whose current proportion of GDP spent on defence is below this level will: halt any decline; aim to increase defence expenditure in real terms as GDP grows; and aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade with a view to meeting their NATO Capability Targets and filling NATO’s capability shortfalls.

Just over half (15 of 29 countries) had achieved that number by 2017, according to NATO.


Canada, Defence Policy and the 2% Target

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended Canada’s NATO role — despite not meeting the two-per-cent spending target — while visiting Germany in February 2017:

There are many ways of evaluating one’s contributions to NATO. When you look at the countries that regularly step up, delivering troops, participating in missions, being there to do the heavy lifting in the alliance, Germany and Canada have always been amongst the strongest actors in NATO.”

Trudeau repeated the message in Latvia yesterday while announcing an extension to Canada’s participation in that country’s NATO battle group:

Canada’s 2017 defence spending (adjusted into U.S. dollars) trailed the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy among member countries, according to NATO figures.

As for defence spending as a percentage of GDP, though, Canada ranked 13th at 1.36%. That number is expected to fall to 1.235 this year (see below tables).

Last year’s defence policy forecast spending to represent 1.4 per cent of GDP by 2024-25, still below NATO’s two-per-cent objective.

Those numbers now include defence-related funding within other departments such as the RCMP, Shared Services Canada, Treasury Board, and Public Services and Procurement. Using the old calculation would result in a 1.22-per-cent figure by 2025, compared to 0.94 per cent for 2016-17.

However, spending on major equipment and research/development is forecast to reach 32 per cent, above NATO’s 20-per-cent target.

The 2017  defence policy promises to increase annual spending up to $32.7 billion on a cash basis by 2027 ($24.6 billion on an accrual basis), with the goal of deploying in “multiple theatres simultaneously, while also bolstering disaster relief, search and rescue, contributions to peace operations and capacity building.”

The government claimed it was the most “rigorously costed defence policy in history” and fully funded.

-Andrew Thomson

Defence Spending as % of GDP (Source: NATO)

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 (proj) 2018 (proj)
Canada 1.16% 1.23% 1.10% 0.99% 1.01% 1.20% 1.15% 1.36% 1.23%


Defence Spending Per Capita in US dollars (Source: NATO)

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 (proj) 2018 (proj)
Canada $548 $594 $532 $487 $506 $601 $582 $702 $643
United States $2,325 $2,326 $2,183 $2,037 $1,916 $1,848 $1,863 $1,895 $1,898
NATO average $1,127 $1,119 $1,062 $1,006 $961 $943 $957 $984 $997