Canada is “slightly delinquent” when it comes to meeting NATO’s target for spending on defence, U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday on the eve of the military alliance’s 70th anniversary celebrations.
He seemed ready to go easy on Ottawa, however — telling journalists in a wide-ranging news conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this morning that he’s confident Canada will boost its military spending.
Trump has demanded that all NATO allies meet the benchmark of spending two per cent of their gross domestic product on the military.
At one point during his media event with Trudeau this morning, Trump asked the prime minister directly how close Canada is to meeting that goal.
The last batch of NATO figures put Canada’s contribution at 1.27 per cent of GDP, but federal officials say the calculation was recently revised and now sits at 1.31 per cent.
Trump once again raised the spectre of the United States not defending allies who don’t meet the benchmark, but later said he might instead retaliate against the countries he described as “delinquent” through trade measures.
When asked to characterize Canada’s position, Trump said it was “slightly delinquent.”
Meeting with Prince Charles
Trudeau hit the ground running on Tuesday with a series of courtesy calls in London ahead of the NATO summit with other world leaders.
Trudeau met with Prince Charles at Clarence House, the royal residence that had been home to the Queen Mother. There have been reports in Britain that the prince will be stepping up more often to assume public duties normally carried out by Queen Elizabeth, who turns 94 in the spring.
The reports come as the Royal Family tries to contain the damage from a BBC interview Prince Andrew gave over his friendship with convicted American sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. On Monday, an American woman who says she was forced to have sex with the prince when she was a teenager told her story to the BBC.
Earlier Tuesday morning, Trudeau also met with Latvian President Egils Levits. The two discussed the deployment of nearly 600 Canadian troops in the Baltic State, part of a NATO mission meant to deter Russian aggression.
Some NATO leaders have openly questioned the future of the 70-year-old military alliance, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying it is suffering “brain death.”
“This alliance at 70 is extremely important to Canada and to people around the world, and we’re going to continue to be dedicated to it,” said Trudeau.
Trump takes aim at Macron
Levits was even more determined to shore up the alliance in the face of criticism.
“For Latvia, I can say the transatlantic bond — that means Europe and Canada and the U.S. — are the cornerstones of our defence politics and of our foreign politics,” he said.
“Because NATO is comprised of member states which share the same values, rule of law, democracy. And these values are to be defended. And we both, Canada and Latvia, are ready and willing to do so.”
In a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday morning, Trump took aim at Macron’s comments.
“Nobody needs NATO more than France,” said Trump. “You can’t just go around making statements like that about NATO. It’s very disrespectful.”
Trump later sat down with Macron and said the countries that do not meet NATO obligations would be “dealt with.”
“Maybe I’ll deal with them from a trade perspective,” Trump said.