Canada to boost military spending after Trump rails at allies

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Ottawa (AFP)

Canada announced Wednesday plans for a sharp increase in military spending over the next decade as US President Donald Trump has demanded of America's NATO allies.

The move, which would nearly double Canada's military spending by 2026, comes as Ottawa seeks to take on a larger role in global affairs, even as Washington appears to be retrenching.

Trump alarmed western leaders by failing to reaffirm US commitment to the defense of NATO allies at a summit last month. Instead he castigated them for not living up to a commitment to spend 2.0 percent of their GDP on defense.

"Governments have not invested adequately and predictably (in the Canadian military)," Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said.

"In an increasingly unpredictable world, it's time for government to hold up its end of the bargain," he said.

Ottawa's plan would raise Canada's military spending to 1.4 percent of GDP at the end of 10 years, up from less than 1.0 percent.

That would take military spending from Can$18.9 billion this year to Can$32.7 billion (US$24.2 billion) by 2026.

The plan calls for investments in new warships, fighter jets, drones, light armored vehicles, precision-guided munitions and other equipment, as well as a modernization of its submarine fleet.

Major equipment purchases -- many of which had already been announced -- are to reach 32 percent of total military spending by 2026, exceeding NATO's 20 percent target.

This includes the purchases of 15 new warships and 88 fighter jets (up from 65 previously announced) to replace its aging fleet.

The size of the army, meanwhile, would increase by 5,000 (including reserve and regular forces), to 101,500 troops.

The plan would see Canada expand its military intelligence and special operations capabilities, enhance its Arctic presence and explore with Washington new roles for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) beyond its current mandate of securing the continent's airspace and shores.

The Canadian military would also develop new capabilities to thwart threats in space, such as from wayward satellites or debris, and launch new communications and surveillance satellites.

It also plans to train hackers to launch cyberattacks in support of military operations.

Ottawa had considered participation in a US missile defense system but chose not to at this time.

A senior military official said the new defense policy aims to meet "not just one enemy," but a range of possible threats.

"It's very difficult to see what's coming," the official said, "So we're developing a multipurpose force that is very flexible."