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Thursday, June 30, 2016

'NATO needs more Canada,' President Obama says in Ottawa

By: Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca Writer

In a mostly praise-filled speech from U.S. President Barack Obama, one notable exception was his urging that Canada “contribute its full share” to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“As your ally and as your friend, let me say that we’ll be more secure when every NATO member including Canada contributes its full share to our common security,” the president told Parliament.

“Because the Canadian Armed Forces are really good,” he added. “If I can borrow a phrase, the world needs more Canada. NATO needs more Canada. We need you. We need you.”

Obama made the remarks after stating that “when nations violate international rules and norms, such as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the United States and Canada stand united, along with our allies, in defence of our collective security.”

Canada currently spends less than one per cent of its GDP on defence, despite a commitment made by all NATO countries to spend at least two per cent of GDP.

Most NATO countries do not meet the two per cent target, but some do, including the U.S. which spends 3.5 per cent, France which spends 2.2 per cent, and the United Kingdom which spends two per cent, according to theWorld Bank.

The prodding of Canada to boost its military contribution was only a small part of a speech around the broad theme that countries are better off when they work together on things like trade and security, rather than “building walls.”

Obama’s position on NATO is in stark contrast to Republican Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called NATO “obsolete” and a waste of money.

Democrat Hillary Clinton has called Trump’s suggestion dangerous. "Putin already hopes to divide Europe," Clinton said in March, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "If Mr. Trump gets his way, it will be like Christmas in the Kremlin,” she added.

In a speech last week, former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney also made the case that Canada should once again spend two per cent of its GDP on defence -- as it last did when he was in charge -- in part due to a rising threat from Russia.

“President Putin clearly wants to restore Russia’s great power status by forging, by force if necessary, a new Eurasian union dependent on Russia for its economy and security, adapting Lenin’s phrase of 'pushing the knife in,' until it hits NATO bone,” he said.

“He’s sharpening that knife with a 40 per cent increase in military spending since 2013, far and above anything committed by the West,” Mulroney added.

Mulroney said that NATO should be a top defence priority for Canada. “What we cannot do is talk about Canada “being back” in the world without making tangible commitments that will anchor our aspirations,” he said.