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29 Aug, 2014 10:49

Canada opposes NATO budget boost - sources

Canada opposes NATO budget boost - sources

The NATO chief wants member states to agree to increase their defense spending at next week’s summit. But Canada is determined to block the move, Reuters reports, citing anonymous sources familiar with negotiations on the issue.

NATO would like to see its member states commit to raising their defense spending to 2 percent of GDP over the next 10 years. In 2013, only four countries - the US, Britain, Greece and Estonia – spent this much on defense.

The bloc mostly needs its budget boosted for “a more visible NATO presence in the east” to counter Russia, which according to the alliance’s chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is “actively participating in the Ukrainian upheaval.” Moscow has repeatedly denied any such claims.

NATO chief eyes more bases in E. Europe to confront Russia

"Canada has made clear it will block consensus and even though the focus is on European members, this is making life harder for NATO as it faces Russian aggression," one of the sources close to negotiations told Reuters.

Troops from Canada's 3rd Division, composed with a platoon of 3rd Battalion and Princess Patricia's Light Infantry, participate at a NATO-led exercise "Orzel Alert" held together with the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Poland's 6th Airborne Brigade in Bledowska Desert in Chechlo, near Olkusz, south Poland May 5, 2014. (Reuters / Kacper Pempel)

Canada believes that whatever the situation in Ukraine is, it’s not a good reason to bind NATO member states to long-term commitments of higher defense spending.

"We are open to increasing defense spending, but to specific ends ... we're talking about committing numbers over 10 years when there is a pressing need to respond to the situation with Russia and Ukraine," a senior Canadian official said.

"The response to that is not a 10-year commitment ... it's not more press releases, it's taking action, and I think in that regard Canada is actually pulling its weight."

The official added that doubling the country’s defense expenditures would not be supported by Canadians.

Canada has so far sent six fighter jets to patrol the skies over Eastern Europe. Canadian troops have participated in exercises in Poland. Ottawa also provided non-lethal military aid to Ukraine and promised Kiev C$220 million (US$202 million) in loans and loan guarantees.

The country is not alone in its discontent with the prospect of increasing defense spending to 2 percent of GDP. Germany has earlier voiced its concern over the issue.

"Germany believes that the 2 percent requirement is unsuitable as an assessment criterion to determine the loyalty of a member state to the alliance. We should talk less about percentages of defense budgets and more about smart ways to obtain better capabilities," a German Defense Ministry spokesman said.