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Report: Trudeau Defies Trump at NATO Meeting, Cuts Military Spending

Newsweek logo Newsweek 7/11/2018 David Brennan
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New figures show that Canadian military spending will be cut significantly, even as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepares to face U.S. President Donald Trump’s demands for higher NATO military spending at the alliance's summit in Brussels.

According to the CBC, Canada will spend around 1.23 percent of its GDP on defense in 2018, down from 1.36 percent last year. This is far below the 2 percent target set for NATO members, which has been a particular bugbear for the American president.

Canadian National Defence spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said the drop in investment was largely down to one-off payments. One was a retroactive pay increase for service members and the other was a $1.3 billion payment into the fund that pays out servicemember pensions.

In a statement carried by CBC, Le Bouthillier said, “Canada continues to place a premium on tangible operational contributions as well as on demonstrating a commitment and capacity to deploy and sustain personnel in support of the NATO alliance.”

Meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Wednesday morning, Trump set the tone for what is expected to be one of the most acrimonious conferences in NATO’s 69-year history. The president repeatedly brought up one of his favorite NATO talking points, that the U.S. pays an “unfair” amount towards the defense of Europe. He warned Stoltenberg, “We’re not going to put up with it, we cant put up with it,” demanding that other states step up military spending.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan arrive at the 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, on July 11, 2018. © Sean Gallup/Getty Images Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan arrive at the 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, on July 11, 2018. Few NATO nations have met the 2 percent pledge since the fall of the Soviet Union, and the alliance has now committed to meeting the target it will take time for them to deliver. Trump, meanwhile, said he expects the change "immediately." 

Germany was the first nation this week that Trump criticized publicly, but it is unlikely to be the last. Trump and Trudeau head to Brussels not long after a public spat that followed the G-7 meeting in Canada last month. Trump’s proposed tariffs were the subject of that disagreement. Trudeau had previously branded the president’s protectionism “unacceptable,” and after the G-7 meeting warned Canada “will not be pushed around.”

Trump then refused to back the G-7 joint statement, and took to Twitter to brand Trudeau “dishonest and weak.” As the war of words escalated, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said there is “a special place in hell” for any leader that “engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.”

Relations between the leaders were already shaky thanks to Trump’s repeated attacks on NAFTA — another sign of his apparent distrust of any transnational organization, be it NATO, the European Union or even the World Trade Organization. With all, Trump believes the U.S. is being “ripped off” in an unfair marketplace. The president has repeatedly said America will no longer be the “world’s piggy bank.”

NATO leaders in Brussels this week will fear a repeat of Trump's G-7 performance. A fractured summit would play directly into the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Trump will meet next week in Helsinki, Finland.

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