Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says NATO’s military alliance is more “united than ever before” but stopped short of joining other allies in their criticism of U.S. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, after he threatened to abandon members who miss their spending targets.
Canada has for years fallen short of hitting the agreed upon target to spend two per cent of GDP on defence, as have other members.
“NATO has kept us safe as a country and has kept all those part of the alliance safe,” Joly told reporters Monday. “We’ve done a lot, but we need to do more.”
Her remarks come two days after the former U.S. president said he would “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO allies who don’t pay their bills.
“Well sir, if we don’t pay, and we’re attacked by Russia — will you protect us?” Trump quoted an unnamed leader as saying.
“I said: ‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’ He said: ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them (Russia) to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay,” Trump said.
Joly would not answer when asked whether Trump’s comments put allied troops at risk, but insists NATO has grown stronger with the inclusion of Finland and upcoming addition of Sweden.
“The minister of defence, [Bill Blair], is heading to NATO in Brussels later this week. And, we will continue to have a strong voice at the table,” said Joly.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was more blunt, blasting Trump for comments he called “irresponsible and dangerous,” as fears deepen that Trump’s possible return to the White House could allow Russia to expand its aggression beyond Ukraine.
“No one can play, or ‘deal,’ with Europe’s security,” added Scholz.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden called Trump’s NATO comments “appalling.”
One of NATO’s foundational principles is Article 5, which commits to collective defence and the vow that an attack against one member is an attack against all, and will result in allied action.
But Trump has often lamented other members are not pulling their weight.
A leaked Pentagon assessment obtained by the Washington Post last April said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told NATO officials Canada would never meet the alliance’s target.
While Trudeau and Trump had a frosty relationship the last time he was in office, Joly insists Canada will be prepared if Trump is re-elected.
“You’ll always hear me saying the same thing, which is essentially the American people will decide. Meanwhile, we’ll be ready for their choice. We’ve been able to manage two types of administration in the White House.”
Her cautious tone comes as Canadian diplomats speak with advisers and congressional allies of Trump, as they prepare for the possibility of a second Trump presidency.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Trump’s recent remarks endanger members of the Western military alliance.
“Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the U.S., and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk,” Stoltenberg said in a statement Sunday.
He added that “regardless of who wins the presidential election the U.S. will remain a strong and committed NATO ally.”
— with files from the Associated Press