OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among the world leaders in attendance at this week's NATO summit in Brussels. Five things to know about Canada's involvement in the 69-year-old military alliance:
1. Canada was a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949, when the alliance was first established to protect western Europe and North America against the Soviet Union and its allies. The Canadian military has since participated in every NATO military operation, including in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya.
2. The largest Canadian contribution to NATO at the moment is through Operation Reassurance, the purpose of which is to provide security and deter Russian aggression in eastern Europe. The effort includes 450 — soon to be 530 — soldiers in Latvia, where they are leading a NATO battle group, as well as the year-round deployment of a naval frigate to the area and the occasional deployment of fighter jets to patrol NATO airspace in the Baltics and Balkans. Canada will now continue to lead the battle group until 2023.
3. Trudeau also said Canada is taking command of a NATO training mission in Iraq, and will contribute 250 military personnel to the effort. It builds on a smaller NATO training program that included 20 Canadian military engineers who have been training Iraqi forces on defusing explosives planted by the Islamic State group. The Canadian commitment represents a shuffling of resources in Iraq: Canada is not actually adding more people to the already existing 850-strong contingent in the region.
4. Where Canada has come under fire for not pulling its weight recently is on defence spending. All NATO allies agreed in 2014 to stop cutting their military budgets and work towards spending two per cent of their GDP on defence by 2024. Canada's defence spending is currently 1.23 per cent and only projected to reach 1.4 per cent in 2024. U.S. President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg have latched onto the target as an important indicator of how much individual members are contributing to the alliance. Despite agreeing to the target, successive Canadian governments have insisted that there are more important measurements such as how much countries are contributing to NATO missions.
5. Canada would need to spend about $17.4 billion more this year than the $27.6 billion it is already spending on the military and other eligible activities to reach the two per cent target — a total of $45 billion. By way of comparison, the federal government collected $42.2 billion in corporate taxes in 2016-17, according to public accounts. It spent a total of $42.8 billion on employment insurance and children's benefits over the same period, and transferred $49.4 billion to the provinces and territories for health and social programs. And it spent $24.1 billion servicing the national debt.
The Canadian Press