NATO is the world’s most important military alliance, a noble one-for-all and all-for one pact among 28 countries of the free world that has kept Russia and other bad actors at bay in the postwar era.

All member countries, rich and poor, committed to contributing their share to maintain NATO’s potency, but most of the 28 are laggards and a handful are deadbeats, contributing a pittance to their international responsibilities. Canada is one of those deadbeats, a particular embarrassment given that Canada is an affluent country and a founder of NATO.

In 2006, NATO’s members agreed to maintain their military capabilities by spending at least two per cent of their GDP on defence. Only five countries today meet or exceed that threshold — the U.S., the U.K., Greece, Poland and Estonia — while other wealthy countries such as France and Germany are either close to two per cent or are actively increasing their defence spending to get there.

Canada is near the bottom of the pack, spending just one per cent of our GDP on our own military, despite our wealth, despite having a sizable military export industry and despite having a proud history of military accomplishments. Unlike others, we have made no moves to date to close the gap, despite pressure from the U.S. — which spends more than the other 27 members combined — and NATO itself. Instead we boast that while we may fall down in quantity we make up for it in quality. Canada is one of “the strongest actors in NATO” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted in Germany last week, saying that we “regularly step up — delivering troops, participating in missions, being there to do the heavy lifting in the alliance.”

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