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Canada’s defence minister reacts to Trump’s NATO remarks: ‘We’re going to hear rhetorical statements’

By Adrian Ghobrial

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    TORONTO (CTV Network) — Canada’s defence minister chose his words carefully when asked to respond to Donald Trump’s suggestion the U.S. might not protect those NATO allies not spending enough on defence from Russia.

Asked if he was concerned about Trump’s latest rhetoric, Bill Blair told a pack of journalists in Ottawa on Monday, “I don’t think we need to overreact, but I think we need to make sure we are prepared and keep our alliances strong.”

Comments made by Trump at the South Carolina rally over the weekend stoked fears of what a second term as U.S. president could mean for the NATO alliance.

Canada, and other countries who’re falling short on their NATO defence spending commitments, learned that a second Trump presidential term could result in Russia being shown an open door for any potential invasion.

Speaking to supporters on Saturday, Trump mused that “one of the presidents of a big country” asked him if they would still be protected if they didn’t pay their way as a NATO member. Trump claims that he told them, “I would not protect you, in fact I would encourage them (Russia) to do whatever the hell they want.”

The White House called Trump’s comments “appalling and unhinged.”

Canada’s military spending has historically lagged behind the majority of NATO members. The federal government is forecast to spend 1.43 per cent of its GDP on defence by 2024/2025, falling short of their 2 per cent commitment.

Is Trump’s messaging wrong? Prof. Jane Boulden with the Centre for International Defence at Queens University said the core of Trump’s message isn’t wrong, “NATO allies who’re not meeting their 2 per cent target should do more to meet that target.”

Blair declined to directly answer if Canada would look to increase NATO spending in the event of a second Trump term.

“There is a political election and debate going on in another country, we’re going to hear rhetorical statements,” said Blair.“The best deterrent to a bully is strength and we’re investing in that strength.”

Though some U.S. lawmakers were less measured with their words, including Rep. Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley, who told supporters that Trump “just put every military member at risk, and every one of our allies at risk, just by saying something at a rally like that.”

The recent remarks have left some scholars concerned that Trump may be willing to act on his words, and that a second Trump presidency could threaten the international order established following the Second World War. Boulden said, “If the U.S., under Trump, starts pulling back and actively seeking to disrupt, then we are in a whole new world picture.”

It’s worth noting that NATO is a two-way street. Military support goes both ways, and there’s concerns from U.S. officials that Trump’s statement could jeopardize the security of the United States as well.

So says White House Spokesperson, Andrew Bates, who stated, “Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling, and unhinged, and it endangers American national security, global stability, and our economy at home.”

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