Chrystia Freehand’s recent budget, although modest, did have some goodies in it for the military, including more than $8-billion in new funding over five years. While less than expected, perhaps, it’s not a bad raise. It is expected to bring our defence spending up to 1.5 percent of our GDP, still short of NATO’s target of two percent.
I admit that as a reaction to Putin’s brutal assault on Ukraine I was, very unlike my usual attitude toward things military, caught up in a certain enthusiasm for a healthy boost to our defence expenditures.
But then my enthusiasm cooled as Ukraine drove the barbarians back from Kiev. The Ukraine, although heavily outnumbered, has single-handedly embarrassed the Russian military.
The only real threat to Western Europe is Russia, indeed this was the purpose for NATO in the first place. If the Russians can’t defeat the Ukrainians, how would they deal with Ukraine plus Poland, plus the Netherlands, plus France, plus Germany, plus the UK, plus, plus, plus. They would be overwhelmed.
It becomes difficult to justify increasing our defence budget to the two percent of GDP demanded by the NATO target, and insisted on by the US, when Europe appears quite capable of keeping the Russian bear on a chain. Particularly difficult when, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, from 2017-18 to 2020-21 the Department of National Defence underspent its planned capital spending by $10-billion. And quite aside from the underspending, we have questionable spending as illustrated by the recent decision to buy the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet, an aircraft that the American Air Force is finding increasingly unaffordable and is arguably unsuitable for Canadian needs.
Most NATO members do not in fact meet the two percent even though they are the ones facing the threat. France (2.0 percent), the UK (2.3) and of course the US (3.5) do meet the target, but then they see themselves as world powers. The United States has hundreds of military bases in dozens of countries. If you want to be an empire, I guess 3.5 percent of GDP is the price.
I’m assuming we have no such ambition. So let’s top our price out at 1.5 percent.