Trudeau to tell allies to stay resolute with Ukraine focus of NATO summit

Canada will be reassuring allies of its commitment to the western alliance as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travels to Washington, D.C., this week to take part in the NATO leaders’ summit at a critical time for war-ravaged Ukraine.

The 32 NATO countries are set to mark the alliance’s 75th anniversary in the same city where the initial treaty was signed. Trudeau will be attending a dinner with NATO leaders at the White House hosted by President Joe Biden as the age and mental acuity of the United States leader is expected to cast a shadow over the historic meeting.“All eyes are peering down into the U.S.,” said Ferry de Kerckhove, a former high-ranking Canadian diplomat.

The world will be watching to see how Biden handles the three-day summit after a widely panned performance during the recent presidential debate.

The upcoming election and the possibility of a second Donald Trump administration is a looming concern for the long-running defensive alliance. Trump has repeatedly claimed he would not defend NATO members that don’t meet defence spending targets.

Canada is one of those members but has defended itself repeatedly for not hitting the target.

Defence Minister Bill Blair points to NATO figures which show Canada’s defence spending grew 67 per cent between 2014 and 2021, and that relative to its economy, that increased spending from one per cent of GDP to almost 1.4 per cent.Canada is expected to spend 1.37 per cent this year, well below the target but Blair has said that he expects spending to climb to at least 1.75 per cent by 2029 with additional spending for a new submarine fleet and integrated air defence and missile systems likely pushing the figure past two per cent.

The promises may not reassure Canada’s allies among worrying tensions with Russia, North Korea and China.“Can we actually convince the people around the table and the Americans that we are going to chime in at the right time?” de Kerckhove said.

The ongoing war in Ukraine will be front and centre and bilateral security agreements are expected to be signed. But the summit is unlikely to go as far as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hopes, said Aurel Braun, a professor of international relations and political science at the University of Toronto.“This summit … could be an inflection point for Ukraine: What is NATO going to do?” said Braun.

A Canadian government official speaking on background said Trudeau, who will be accompanied by Blair and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly, will be making forceful comments about the need to stay resolute in backing Ukraine, as doubts about continuing the fight are growing in Europe and the United States.

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