One of the key differences between the Wales (2014) and the Warsaw Summit is the much harder and militaristic tone of the latter’s final communiqué. This summit was announced to be all about deterrence and this is was we got from Canada.
Days before the summit, the Trudeau government confirmed it was to be one of the four Framework countries of the new NATO Enhanced Forward Presence force in the Baltics and Poland. At the summit, the Canadian delegation provided us with the exact level of its commitment, with a battalion in Latvia (for about 450 troops deployed at all time), the confirmation of the renewal of a frigate deployment in the area and an Air Task Force, up to six CF-18 fighter aircraft.
Beside the Enhanced Forward Presence, Canada also committed itself financially in Afghanistan. The Resolute Support mission has been extended to at least 2020, to be funded by 4.5 billion $US in total. Out of this number, 3.5 billion is coming from the US, while the last billion is from non-US members of the alliance. Canada pledged to cover 465 million $US of it.
These contributions from Canada are substantive and will help the country dodge criticisms for its lack of defence spending, as pointed out by Stéfanie von Hlatky, Director of the Queen’s University Centre for International and Defence Policy. This is especially true in light of the summit final communiqué, where Article 34 state that, regarding burden sharing and defence spending, there is still much work to be done. Efforts to achieve a more balanced sharing of the costs and responsibilities continue. Canada can now say that it stands on the side of the big contributors, not on the one that unbalances the alliance.
Beside burden-sharing, we can also wonder on the justification behind this hardline stance, at least for a country like Canada. Prime Minister Trudeau “saw it as an opportunity for Canada to contribute to security and stability, defence and deterrence in Europe, at a time when it is very much necessary.” Continuing, Mr. Trudeau also mentioned that this kind of strong posture “doesn’t preclude dialogue [with Russia], but ensures that dialogue is clear and crisp”.
This positioning on deterrence can be seen in the consultations on the new Canadian white book. As Ms. von Hlatky told us, the word “deterrence” is coming back in the Canadian defence lexicon. When questioned about that, Canada Foreign Affairs minister, Stéphane Dion, said countries in Eastern Europe are legitimately concerned by the “unacceptable behavior” of Russia. In this context, it is important to state that “each square centimeter of NATO territory” is protected, making deterrence a necessity.
In our pre-Summit analysis on Canada’s hot topics at the Summit, it was mentioned Canada would have to swim between helping re-engage Russia with NATO, while showing its support to the Atlantic allies. It seems the country decided to play the support role, more than one that would help re-engage dialogue with Russia. Of course, Canada is not alone in this; this has been the stance adopted by the United States and the United Kingdom, among others. It means Canada can get away more easily with not reaching the 2% of GDP target in defence expenditure, since the country is still proving a reliable ally.
See below for the full clip with Stephane Dion (in French):