Canada has chance to be a major voice at NATO summit.

As NATO leaders gather in Washington, D.C., for their annual summit that begins Tuesday, Canada’s involvement in major discussions may be complicated by how allies view its commitment to defence spending, analysts say.

The defence alliance is marking its 75th anniversary by looking toward an uncertain future and growing global threat environment where both the Arctic and the Indo-Pacific are set to be top priorities, along with the ongoing war in Ukraine. Security in the far north is of particular concern to Canada, which also has heavy military investments in Eastern Europe and the northern Pacific.

But pressure to meet NATO’s threshold of spending at least two per cent of GDP on defence — and present a concrete plan to get there — may come to a head at the summit and relegate Canada to the background in the talks.“It’s not just the two per cent,” said Richard Shimooka, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute who studies defence policy. “A lot of the spending (currently committed by Canada) is backloaded into the 2030s, and it will take a long time to deliver on. … And I feel that a lot of the NATO members just don’t have time for this.”

Canada’s updated defence policy forecasts spending will rise from 1.37 per cent of GDP currently to 1.76 per cent by 2030.

Defence Minister Bill Blair has repeatedly said further unallocated spending not specified in the policy update will get Canada to the two-per cent target, but has yet to say when that might happen.Canada is the only NATO ally not meeting the alliance’s target that has yet to provide a detailed roadmap on getting to two per cent, which NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said will be expected at this week’s summit.“I have no intention of Canada being a free-rider,” Blair told the FP Security Forum in Washington on Monday on the eve of the summit.

“I’m hoping that over the course of the next few days, I will be able to share that credible, verifiable plan with our allies to provide them with assurances that Canada understands its responsibility and we’re going to live up to our responsibility.”

The lack of a plan has drawn bipartisan condemnation from Washington, with 23 U.S. senators urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly to provide a plan for boosting spending.Sources have told Global News the Biden administration is losing patience with Canada and wants to see a plan that includes submarines and missile defence that could help reach the target.

Blair has said the government is looking into procuring a new submarine fleet and seeking to work with European allies on the file, but cannot commit more spending until a decision on what to purchase has been made. He has not provided a timeline on that decision.On Monday, Blair’s office released a list of quotes from NATO and American leaders praising Canada’s defence policy update and commitments to boost spending.

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