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Trudeau bills 10-year defence spending plan as answer to Trump spending call

BRUSSELS — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is billing a pre-existing plan to grow military spending by 70 per cent over the next 10 years as Canada’s answer to Donald Trump’s persistent demand that NATO allies spend two per cent of their GDP on defence.

At a news conference wrapping up the two-day NATO summit in Brussels, Trudeau was pressed to provide more details about the U.S. president’s sudden insistence that allies have agreed to spend more — and to do it more quickly.

“We are increasing our defence budget — indeed, we’re increasing it by 70 per cent over the next decade,” Trudeau said when asked about what Canada had agreed to during an emergency session of NATO members.

“This is something that came about following what, quite frankly, was years of declining investment and under-investment by a broad number of NATO allies over the past decades … including Canada.

“Canada had been also under-investing and neglecting its military investments.”

He touted his government’s long-awaited defence policy review, released last June, as the answer to Trump’s latest demands for more spending from NATO allies. And he said Canada has promised to reverse a decline in military resources with an eye towards the two per cent target.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to the Wales declaration … that is something we certainly agree with,” he said of the target, established during the NATO summit in Wales in 2014.

“That’s why we are pleased that based on the consultation we did with Canadians and our own defence policy review, we’re moving forward with increasing by 70 per cent our defence investments over the coming decade.”

Including that commitment, however, Canada’s current defence spending plans are only expected to bring it to 1.4 per cent of GDP, well short of the Wales target.

Canada was never expected to agree to Trump’s timelines for reaching two per cent. Instead, Trudeau’s announcement prior to the summit — plans to lead a new training mission in Iraq and an extension on its role with a NATO battle group in Latvia through 2023 — were aimed at demonstrating a commitment beyond mere dollars.

Following Thursday’s emergency session of NATO members, Trump declared the military alliance to be “very unified, very strong, no problem.” He said he successfully pushed for NATO members to spend more of their budgets on defence and at a faster pace than expected.

He said NATO is “more co-ordinated” and there’s a “better spirit for NATO” — surprising sentiments considering Trump has long made his disdain for the alliance well known, and had even threatened to pull the U.S. out of the alliance over the spending dispute.

The Canadian Press

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