OTTAWA, Canada — Canada will increase defense spending and rely less on the United States, the country’s foreign minister said Tuesday, in a major foreign policy shift toward a bigger role on the world stage.
The change will cost billions of dollars in investment, top diplomat Chrystia Freeland told lawmakers in a speech that did not mention US President Donald Trump by name but left little doubt of her concerns.
“International relationships that had seemed immutable for 70 years are being called into question,” Freeland said, adding that Trump supporters had voted “to shrug off the burden of world leadership.”
As a consequence, Canada will have to develop its own “hard power” military capabilities to support diplomatic and development efforts abroad.
Details are expected in a defense policy announcement Wednesday.
Canada currently spends less than one percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, about half the two percent level demanded by Washington of NATO allies.
Freeland stressed that NATO and the alliance’s collective defense principle (Article 5) would remain “at the heart of Canada’s national security policy.”
She repeated Canada’s disappointment with the US decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, also highlighting threats to global stability such as civil wars, poverty, drought and natural disasters that “spawn globally destabilizing mass migrations.”
“The dictatorship in North Korea, crimes against humanity in Syria, the monstrous extremists of Daesh [Islamic State group], and Russian military adventurism and expansionism also all pose clear strategic threats to the liberal democratic world, including Canada,” she said.
And although Canada has relied on the United States as a neighbor with great capabilities, Freeland indicated this was no longer assured.
“Canada’s geography has meant that we have always been able to count on American self-interest to provide a protective umbrella beneath which we have found indirect shelter,” Freeland said.
“If middle powers do not implicate themselves in the furtherance of peace and stability around the world, that will be left to the great powers to settle among themselves. This would not be in Canada’s interest.
“Canadian liberalism is a precious idea,” she added. “It would not long survive in a world dominated by the clash of great powers and their vassals, struggling for supremacy or, at best, an uneasy detente.”