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Pentagon Leaks: Canada Stokes Flames of War it Won't Have to Fight

Paul Shepard

Apr 26, 2023

Canada's reliance on the bloated US military as an assurance of her own national security is news to no one. But leaked revelations have exposed the frustration felt in Washington and across NATO at Ottawa's reluctance to meet its commitments to the military alliance. The document, part of the trove of classified files leaked on Discord by Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old Massachusetts air national guardsman, bluntly states, “widespread defense shortfalls hinder Canadian capabilities while straining partner relationships and alliance contributions."

The US Joint Chiefs of Staff seal-stamped anonymous document reveals that Turkey and Germany have raised concerns about Canada's alleged under-performance in meeting its obligations in the military alliance, suggesting that Canada is not contributing sufficiently.

While Ottawa is no doubt embarrassed by the revelations contained in the document, it would be a mistake to respond by doubling down on its unrealistic pledges to NATO. Rather, Canadians should recognize the growing need to reexamine their foreign policy priorities.

'A Reliable Partner'

The leaked document also revealed a private admission made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about changes to Canada's military budget. Despite his government's public commitment to revitalize the country's dilapidated military, Trudeau reportedly informed NATO officials that Canada will never meet the 2 percent defense spending target.

Confronted about these allegations, Trudeau maintained that Canada is a dependable partner to NATO and to the rest of the world. He reiterated his stance, saying "I have always said that Canada is a reliable partner to NATO and other countries."

According to NATO's website, every NATO member is expected to dedicate at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to military spending as a benchmark of their commitment to contributing to the alliance's joint defense efforts. This guideline, established in 2006, "serves as an indicator of a country’s political will to contribute to NATO’s common defense efforts since the defense capacity of each member has an impact on the overall perception of the Alliance’s credibility as a politico-military organization."

At the 2014 NATO leaders summit, member states reiterated their commitment to the 2 percent goal, which at the time, only three countries had attained. Since then, the number has increased to seven as of 2022, but several countries still fall short of meeting the target.

Canadian Military 'Strength'

Canada's military budget has remained below 1.4 percent of its GDP for the last 26 years and currently stands at only 1.29 percent. Although Ottawa has set a goal to increase defense spending by over 70 percent between 2017 and 2026, this still falls short of the 2 percent target.

The fact that Canada has been unable to meet NATO's 2 percent defense spending target has not stopped it from participating in ill-advised US-led military interventions, from Vietnam to Afghanistan and beyond. By doing so, Canada is able to claim that it has "earned" the protection of its more powerful neighbor and maintain a reputation for promoting human rights and engaging proactively in world affairs.

It is true, as apologists maintain, that Canada remains the sixth largest contributor to NATO's defense budget and one of the top funders of the alliance's $4.8 billion common fund. However, this simply reflects the country's wealth rather than its commitment to increase its defense spending in accordance with NATO's expectations.

Ottawa has earmarked $19 billion toward acquiring new fighter jets, with delivery set to begin in 2026. An additional $4.9 billion has been allocated for the modernization of continental defense through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a binational command responsible for aerospace warning and control, as well as maritime warning, in defense of Canada and the US. Ottawa cites these and other planned investments as evidence of its desire to assume greater responsibility for its own defense requirements.

According to the leaked document, Canada's military "could not conduct a major operation while simultaneously maintaining its NATO battle group leadership and aid to Ukraine." Canada is leading a NATO battle group in Latvia, but the document indicates that other member states are "concerned" that Ottawa has not deployed more personnel to its far-flung Baltic ally, despite pledging to do so in the past year.

On the other hand, the Canadian Armed Forces have trained over 36,000 Ukrainian military and security personnel over the last eight years. Since 2022, Canada has provided over $1 billion in military aid, including armored vehicles, ammunition, surface-to-air missiles, and tanks to Kiev. As Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland highlighted in a recent press conference, Canada contributes more per capita than any other G7 country to supporting the government in Kiev.

The US and Canada are inextricably woven together in terms of our shared history, cultural connection and geographic proximity. It seems inevitable that as our long-standing economic collaboration continues to deepen, the US will continue to take responsibility for Canada's security. Were NATO dissolved, it would be outrageously foolish for Washington and Ottawa not to form a defense pact.

But because Canada cannot stand on her own feet militarily; because she continues to rely on the US for security, it would behoove her to stop sabre-rattling at Russia, to stop funding and arming Kiev, and to resist US-led military adventurism and "peacekeeping" (in which Canada could only ever be a junior partner anyway) – in short, to refrain from provoking wars she won't really have to fight.

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