What Donald wants, Donald gets.
Well, not really. He wanted a Muslim ban. Didn't get it. Wanted Obamacare killed, and something else instead. Didn't get that. Wanted -- promised! -- ISIS defeated in 30 days. Didn't get, or do, that.
But getting more money out of Canada for NATO? He's going to get that.
U.S. President Donald Trump smiles as Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, left, speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 13, 2017. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Now, if you were to poke through the entrails of the 2017 federal budget, released with a minimum of fuss last week, you would not find any statement that read: "Her Majesty's Government pledges to commit more resources to the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), because we are concerned what the short-fingered vulgarian to the South will do to us if we don't." No such statement is in there.
There is, however, this on page 186 in Chapter Three of the budget:
"The Government will soon release a new defence policy for Canada, following substantive public consultation and extensive analysis. It will be more rigorously costed than any previous defence policy. It will commit the level of investment required to restore the Canadian Armed Forces to a sustainable footing with respect to finances, capital and people, and equip the Forces to meet the challenges of the coming decades."
That paragraph is the Donald Trump paragraph, you might say. It was written just for him. As we speak, Canada's highly capable ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton -- probably the best appointment Justin Trudeau has made to date, but that is a column for another day -- is shuttling around Official Washington, a photocopy of that paragraph in hand, solemnly assuring the hawks in the Trump regime that Canada will start paying its way in NATO very soon.
Because we don't pay our way in NATO, and we haven't for a long time. And we need to.
There are 28 members of NATO. Its budget is north of $900 billion annually. The United States of America contributes an extraordinary $650 billion of that. The United Kingdom, $60 billion; France and Germany, in and around $40 billion each, give or take. Canada?
"You have countries in NATO that are getting a free ride and it's unfair, it's very unfair."
-- U.S. President Donald Trump
Canada is in the bottom third of NATO members, alongside military powerhouses like Slovenia and Luxembourg, and others with bankrupt and/or struggling economies. By agreement reached in 2014, NATO members are supposed to be devoting two per cent of their nation's gross domestic product (GDP) to defence. Canada doesn't, and consistently hasn't. We spend less than one per cent.
During the Republican primaries and during the U.S. presidential race, Donald Trump would be asked often about defence by reporters looking for some new insane Trump statement to report. Trump wouldn't disappoint.
So: "We are getting ripped off by every country in NATO, where they pay virtually nothing, most of them. And we're paying the majority of the costs."
And: "We're spending a tremendous -- billions and billions of dollars on NATO. We're paying too much! You have countries in NATO, I think it's 28 countries -- you have countries in NATO that are getting a free ride and it's unfair, it's very unfair."
And, this gem, which gave plenty of Western leaders heartburn, and which transformed Donald Trump's presidency from something that was mildly amusing to something that was deeply terrifying: NATO was "obsolete," he said. And: "The U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves."
That statement about NATO's obsolesence, uttered during an interview in January with a German newspaper, was a shock. "[NATO is] obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago," Trump said. Secondly, he said, it's obsolete because "countries aren't paying what they should."
His first point, like so much that the Unpresident says, was certifiably insane. With Trump's pal Vladimir Putin massing troops and guns on the border of assorted Baltic states, NATO is needed more now than perhaps ever before. But on his second assertion, that NATO is compromised because many countries aren't paying what they should?
Donald Trump is right.
(Your eyes are not deceiving you. Hillary Clinton-loving Warren Kinsella wrote that "Donald Trump is right" about something. Clip and save, folks.)
The unofficial word around official Ottawa is that the budget's Donald Trump Paragraph means that the forthcoming defence review -- with the Trudeau government's amorphous pledge to "equip the Forces to meet the challenges of the coming decades" -- will result in Canada finally meeting its NATO commitment. A Conservative government had long been a NATO free rider, but it will be a Liberal government that will finally pay its way in NATO. To this Liberal hawk, that is profoundly ironic -- but highly satisfying.
Donald Trump is a traitor to his nation and its constitution. He is a thug and a demagogue. He is an Internet troll, elevated to the Oval Office. But on NATO, and on the requisite contributions to NATO, he is right.
Just ask the guy who said this: "NATO needs more Canada." That guy?
One Barack Obama, in the House of Commons on June 29, 2016.
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