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A group of 23 U.S. senators, including both Democrats and Republicans, have written a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging Canada to meet NATO’s target of spending at least two percent of GDP on defense. The senators are concerned that Canada’s current defense spending projections suggest it will not reach this target within the next decade, putting its commitments to the alliance at risk. Canada’s newly-unveiled defense policy update includes $7.9 billion in new spending on the military over the next five years, which would raise defense spending to 1.76 percent of GDP by the 2029-30 fiscal year.

The Liberal government has not definitively stated whether Canada will ever meet NATO’s two percent benchmark, but Defense Minister Bill Blair has indicated that additional spending may be pursued, including the purchase of a new submarine fleet. The recent focus on reaching the two percent target comes as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine and has begun testing the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. Former U.S. President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election, has raised concerns about allies not meeting their spending commitments. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has suggested raising the spending target to 2.5 percent of GDP to address current global threats.

The senators commend Canada for its contributions to NATO military operations, such as the multinational battlegroup in Latvia, but they also highlight the need for modernization of NORAD, emphasizing the importance of cooperation from the Canadian government. Ottawa has allocated funds for modernizing NORAD, as well as for purchasing F-35 fighter jets and building new naval ships. The senators anticipate a plan from Canada and other NATO members that have not met the two percent defense spending threshold to reach this benchmark as soon as possible, in order to defend democracy, preserve security, and expand opportunity.

This letter marks a rare direct appeal from Canadian allies to a prime minister, and it underscores previous concerns voiced by American lawmakers about Canada’s defense spending. Last year, during a confirmation hearing, a U.S. senator expressed frustration over Canada’s defense budget shortfall. During Defense Minister Bill Blair’s meeting with his American counterpart Lloyd Austin, the U.S. commended Canada’s defense policy update and suggested it would help Canada meet NATO’s two percent commitment. As the U.S. prepares to host the 2024 NATO Summit later in the year, the senators expect a strong partnership between the U.S., Canada, and all allies to achieve the defense spending benchmarks set by the alliance.

Global News has sought a comment from the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the letter from the U.S. senators. The U.S. senators who signed the letter, led by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Sen. Thom Tillis, have emphasized the importance of upholding commitments to the alliance and increasing defense spending to meet NATO’s targets. They are calling on Canada and other NATO members to develop plans to reach the two percent defense spending threshold as soon as possible, in order to strengthen democracy, security, and opportunity. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the growing threats from Russia have heightened the urgency for NATO members to bolster their defense capabilities and commitments.

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