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

The City of Nanaimo will further investigate an initiative to set up two 12-cabin sites to create transitional emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness. (Black Press file photo)
City of Nanaimo will ask for expressions of interest to operate tiny cabin sites

Staff expresses concern about workload, councillor says sheltering people must take priority

Capt. Alan Millbank, head of Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s Fire and Loss Prevention Division, takes photos of the scene of a blaze that heavily damaged two apartments on Wakesiah Avenue on Sunday, April 18. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
RCMP, Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigating suspicious apartment blaze

Fire destroyed ground-floor apartment, spread to second storey at Wakesiah Avenue complex

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations with RV hook-ups

Nanaimo RCMP hope the public can help them find a 16-year-old who has been missing since Sunday. (Photo submitted)
UPDATE: 16-year-old Nanaimo boy located safe

Teen had been reported missing last week and it was thought he may have left town

Capt. Alan Millbank, head of Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s Fire and Loss Prevention Division, takes photos of the scene of a blaze that heavily damaged two apartments on Wakesiah Avenue on Sunday, April 18. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
RCMP, Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigating suspicious apartment blaze

Fire destroyed ground-floor apartment, spread to second storey at Wakesiah Avenue complex

Paramedic Matthew Schlatter of Victoria is living a fuller life today due to the double lung transplant he received in 2019. He encourages B.C. residents to register as an organ donor and let their families know their wishes. (Instagram/Matthew Schlatter)
B.C. man living a full, active life after double-lung transplant

Matt Schlatter encourages people to register as an organ donor to help others live

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future finally surfaces at Royal B.C. Museum

Museum dives into the world of the killer whale as delayed feature exhibition now open

Polystyrene has been outlawed as a take-out option for restaurants in Tofino and Ucluelet. (Black Press Media file photo)
Styrofoam done as a takeout option on Island’s Pacific Rim

Tofino and Ucluelet ban polystyrene take-out containers

The City of Nanaimo’s finance and audit committee has recommended spending $200,000 from reserves on a feasibility study and conceptual designs for a community centre in the south end. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo will study options for south-end community centre

Finance committee recommends spending $200,000 from reserves for feasibility study and concept plans

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amounts from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

Nanaimo NightOwls. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo NightOwls cancel season due to COVID-19

Baseball team’s inaugural season in West Coast League will have to wait until 2022

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

Most Read