It appears that, this week, Stephen Harper will finally be asked to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine.
Canada’s prime minister — one of the most loudest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin — took off for the United Kingdom, on Tuesday, ahead of a critical NATO summit in Wales.
According to CBC News, NATO wants its member countries, like Canada, to do more than just talk the talk.
"Canada ranks sixth in spending among the allies and contributes just six per cent of NATO’s budget. As a share of GDP, only five of NATO’s 28 members spend less than Canada,” notes CBC’s Terry Milewski.
“It’s clear that the NATO alliance will, once again, urge its members to raise their defence spending to two per cent of GDP over 10 years.”
Currently, Canada spends about one per cent of GDP or about $19 billion a year on defence.
On Monday, NATO Secretary General General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also noted that he intends to set-up a rapid-reaction military force that could be deployed to a crisis in Eastern Europe within two days of a conflict.
"In Wales, I expect a commitment to increase defence investments as our economies recover," the secretary general said in a statement on Monday.
"To spend the right amount of money on the right things – deployable forces, well trained and with modern equipment. So that we share the responsibility of collective defence as we share the benefits."
The Toronto Star is reporting that Canada will be asked to contribute troops and equipment to this effort but at this point they remain noncommittal.
"Canada is aware of a number of proposals for measures to enhance security and stability, in addition to enhancing the effectiveness of the alliance,” a government source told the Star, on Monday.
“These measures include a rapid response force. We will consider all measures accordingly and look forward to discussions at the summit next week.”
The NATO summit comes with a backdrop of continued uncertainty in Ukraine.
Last week, NATO released satellite images of what it says are 1,000 Russian troops engaged in military operations on Ukrainian soil.
And on Tuesday — while intense fighting continued in the eastern Ukrainian villages — Russia called on the United States to push Kiev into giving up its military campaign against the Russian separatists and to start negotiating a peace deal.
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Whether Canada — or the other member states — buck up with money and resources remains to be seen.
A NATO expert with the Paterson School of International Affairs at Ottawa’s Carleton University says that it’s unlikely given countries’ aversions to giving up control of their own troops.
“I have a hard time imaging a rapid reaction force being rapid,” Steve Saideman told the Canadian Press.
"I don’t feel confident they’ll be able to overcome the problems that have existed and have been baked into NATO."
Fern Hampson, of the Global Security and Politics program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario, says that the decisions made this week could affect the future of the alliance.
“NATO is facing its greatest crisis since the Berlin and Cuban crises of the Cold War,” he told the Globe and Mail.
“NATO can show that it is a real alliance that is prepared to stand up to Putin’s incursions, or it can fade into oblivion by issuing more frothy communiqués that commit its members to little.”
The summit takes place on Thursday and Friday at the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales.
(Photo courtesy of Reuters)
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