Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and son Xavier depart Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019. Trudeau flies to London today to celebrate the 70th birthday of the NATO military alliance, which is facing questions and uncertainty about how to deal with Russia, China — and its own internal divisions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and son Xavier depart Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019. Trudeau flies to London today to celebrate the 70th birthday of the NATO military alliance, which is facing questions and uncertainty about how to deal with Russia, China — and its own internal divisions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Trudeau to mark NATO’s birthday amid questions about military alliance’s future

The alliance is also at odds over the best way to deal with Russia

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is off to London where he will spend the next few days trying to give the NATO military alliance a boost amid existential questions about its future — while defending Canada’s own commitment to it.

Leaders from all 29 NATO member states are gathering in London this week to celebrate the 70th birthday of the alliance, which was created at the start of the Cold War to defend North America and Western Europe from the Soviet Union.

More recently, the alliance has fought in Afghanistan, ousted Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, patrolled for pirates off the Horn of Africa and established a line of defence in Eastern Europe against Russian aggression.

Canada has been involved in all those efforts and more, including leading a NATO training mission in Iraq and contributing fighter jets to patrol Romanian airspace and frigates to patrol the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

Yet NATO has also faced pressure in recent years, with members grappling over how to best deal with Russia and China even as U.S. President Donald Trump has raised questions about his country’s commitment to the alliance.

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron kicked off a sharp debate over NATO’s future when he suggested the military alliance was suffering from “brain death” due to a lack of co-ordination and communication between members.

He specifically cited the U.S. military withdrawal from northeast Syria and Turkey’s subsequent invasion of the area — both without any consultation with fellow NATO members — as examples of a breakdown in the alliance.

There have also been arguments over the amount of money individual members are investing in their militaries, with Trump leading the charge in calling on European allies as well as Canada to step up their spending.

China is also set to figure prominently during the discussions as it has become more assertive in its neighbourhood and around the world — and because of U.S. demands that Canada and others ban Huawei from its 5G networks.

The alliance is also at odds over the best way to deal with Russia, with some members suggesting more dialogue even as others such as Canada take a hard line with it over its actions in Ukraine and elsewhere.

There are also concerns about NATO member Turkey, which has become close to Russia under its increasingly autocratic president, yet sits in a strategically important location bridging Europe with Asia and the Middle East.

It is into this minefield that Trudeau will step, starting with a discussion alongside his Dutch counterpart on Tuesday where the Canadian prime minister is expected to tout the importance of NATO to North American, European and global security.

“Standing together, North America and Europe represent half of the world’s economic might and half of the world’s military might,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said last week.

“In uncertain times, we need strong multilateral institutions like NATO. So we must continue to strengthen them every day. To keep all our citizens safe.”

It’s a message Trudeau is expected to echo.

Yet senior government officials have warned against expecting Trudeau to make any announcements before he returns to Canada on Wednesday night in time for the resumption of Parliament on Thursday.

Rather, ensuring the alliance not only survives but adapts and positions itself to face the threats of today and tomorrow is seen as essential to Canada’s own security, given its relatively small size and somewhat isolated position atop the U.S.

Trudeau will also tout Canada’s many contributions to the alliance in the face of U.S. and other concerns about its defence spending, which stands at 1.31 per cent of gross domestic product — less than NATO’s agreed-upon target of two per cent.

The government has instead repeatedly pointed to Canada leading a battle group in Latvia and providing military trainers in Iraq, fighter jets in Romania and a frigate in the Mediterranean as a better measurement of its contributions.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau, Chrystia Freeland meet Mexico’s USMCA point man in Ottawa

ALSO READ: House panel to vote on Ukraine report as Trump mulls defence

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowichan Valley Capitals forward Sean Ramsay comes away with the puck after a battle along the boards during a game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on May 1, 2021. (Elena Rardon/Black Press Media)
Three wins in a row for Cowichan Capitals

BCHL team enjoying best stretch of the season

Friends have set up a GoFundMe account for the family of Dorothy Littau, who was diagnosed with colon cancer last month. (Submitted)
GoFundMe campaign set up ‘ever-present force in South Cowichan schools’

Dorothy Littau was diagnosed with colon cancer in April

Peter and Wayne Richmond and 49th Parallel Grocery won the award for Business Achievement 20+ Employees at the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce’s 22nd Black Tie Awards on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Submitted)
Black Tie winners announced during virtual awards event

Recipients gave speeches by phone while being live-streamed on YouTube

Cobble Hill’s Bob Collins (left) and reservist Keenan Hayes stand at attention at Cobble Hill Cenotaph in this photo taken on Oct. 22, 2019, to honour members of the Canadian military who died in Canada in non-combat roles. (File photo)
MacGregor seeks to honour armed services members who died on Canadian soil

MP introduces bill to mark Oct. 22 as “Canadian Armed Forces Members’ Day”

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
Clash between loggers, activists halts forestry operations over Fairy Creek

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

The courthouse in Nanaimo, B.C. (News Bulletin file)
Island man sentenced in Nanaimo after causing a dog unnecessary pain and suffering

Kiefer Tyson Giroux, 26, of Nanoose Bay, given six-month sentence

Following a one-year pause due to the pandemic, the Snowbirds were back in the skies over the Comox Valley Wednesday (May 5) morning. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Video: Snowbirds hold first training session in Comox Valley in more than 2 years

The team will conduct their training from May 4 to 26 in the area

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

Most Read