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Canada's defence investment plans put it on track to meet NATO guideline, minister says

A CP-140M Aurora reconnaissance aircraft prepare to leave CFB Greenwood in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley on Friday, October 24, 2014.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan A CP-140M Aurora reconnaissance aircraft prepare to leave CFB Greenwood in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley on Friday, October 24, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
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BRUSSELS -

Canada looks on track to meet NATO’s military spending guideline by the end of the decade, Defence Minister Bill Blair said Friday, notably by boosting investment in the Arctic near its shared border with Russia as the region warms quickly because of climate change.

After Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, NATO allies agreed to halt budget cuts and move toward spending 2 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence within a decade. Canada was barely spending one per cent at the time.

Last year, as it became clear that Russia’s war with Ukraine would grind on, they decided that 2 per cent should be a spending minimum. According to NATO figures, Canada was estimated to be spending 1.33 per cent of GDP on its military budget in 2023.

“Our country finds itself at a pivotal moment. Our sovereignty and our security are no longer guaranteed by our geographic location," Blair said. Canada is surrounded by three oceans with NATO's biggest ally, the U.S., as its neighbour.

"But the new threat environment, the greater accessibility of our Arctic, the new technologies and the actions of our adversaries have taught us that we need to be ready,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels.

Blair said that he expects Canada's defence spending to climb to at least 1.75 per cent of GDP by 2029, but that other investment, notably replacing the country's aging submarine fleet or purchasing integrated air defence and missile systems, would probably push the figure past the 2 per cent mark.

“I believe it brings us inevitably to over 2 per cent of defence spending. But I’ve got some work to do in order to be able to articulate that both to my own country and to our allies,” he said.

Canada already plans to buy surveillance aircraft, helicopters and restock its ammunition supplies.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that he expects around two thirds of the alliance’s 32 member countries to spend 2 per cent of GDP on their defence budgets this year, up from just three countries a decade ago.

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