The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has gotten a lot of attention over the last year or so, ever since Russia invaded Ukraine at the beginning of 2022.
And while many of those headlines have been overwhelmingly positive for members of NATO, recent news from the weekend certainly doesn’t look good for one of the alliance’s members.
On Sunday, Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska accused Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, of being a “free rider” in NATO, since they are skirting the responsibility they have to provide military funding to the organization.
Sullivan said that Canada was “one of the biggest laggards” in NATO, since it didn’t turn over 2% of its GDP to help fund the treaty alliance.
Speaking during a radio interview Sunday, Sullivan – who serves on the Armed Services Committee in the Senate – said Trudeau “has been heard to say he’s never going to hit” the minimum that NATO requires.
As he said:
“The Canadians landed on Juno Beach [on D-Day]. Did an incredible job. But right now, they’re not doing a good job with regards to their obligations in NATO.
“Canada is a military free rider in NATO. It’s true. I’m a fan of the Canadians. They’re our only neighbor in Alaska, if you don’t include Russia. But, with regard to the NATO-member agreed-upon requirements – to hit 2% of gross domestic product on defense … Canada is one of the biggest laggards. Not even close. A little bit above 1.3%.”
Sullivan attended the NATO summit that was held in Lithuania last week and said that Canada not hitting the 2% requirement was a big issue there. He further said that an editorial that was published in the Wall Street Journal calling Trudeau out was “spot-on.”
For his part, Trudeau defended the record of Canada’s spending on military as well as its funding commitment to NATO and the North American Aerospace Defense Command. He said:
“We’ve invested massively in NORAD modernization just earlier this year. We’re continuing to step up in our NATO commitments. We’re going to continue to step up in this time of increased concerns around security everywhere around the world.”
The 31 NATO member states all recently pledged that they would spend “at least” 2% of their GDP on the organization. That’s in response to the fact that only seven of those members spent at least that much money on defense spending in NATO last year.
Sullivan’s ire wasn’t only directed toward Canada, though. He also said that President Joe Biden is attempting to shortchange the American defense budget while one of the “most dangerous periods” since World War II is going on right now.
In addition to Russia invading Ukraine and threatening some other surrounding countries, China is also bullying some of its neighbors. As Sullivan said:
“One of the things we have to do is have a professional, strong, lethal military. Everybody normally agrees with that, except the Biden administration.”