By Scott Taylor
You can call Donald Trump many things, but after his first few months in power it appears that he intends to keep his election campaign promises.
In delivering his first budget last week, Trump boosted discretionary defence spending by a whopping $54-billion (US), which amounts to roughly a 10 per cent increase to the current expenditure.
To realize these additional funds, Trump plans to cut out an equal amount from the budgets of the U.S. State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. Cut back on diplomats, buy more weapons and to hell with the environment.
Trump also increased funding for border security, including money for the wall he intends to build along the Mexican border. These funds are, of course, only a temporary expenditure until Trump figures out how to make the Mexicans pay for it.
Also included in Trump’s budget was a few billion dollars to help refurbish and renew America’s nuclear arsenal.
Nothing makes a country great again better than its enhanced capability to destroy the planet.
For Canada, Trump’s prioritization of defence spending means that we will be under enormous pressure to boost our own defence budget. The usual military pundits and tub-thumping cheerleaders are like broken records, repeating the same old mantra of two per cent of GDP defence spending objective for Canada. This is of course the same arbitrary percentage that NATO members have agreed to aspire to, but which only a handful of members actually meet.
Canada currently spends roughly one per cent of its GDP on defence. To meet NATO’s goal would require a 100 per cent increase in funding, translating to spending an additional $21-billion a year — every year — on defence. This would mean the loss of a hell of a lot of essential government services beyond defence. The two per cent figure also does not factor in the actual dollars that we spend.
Canada happens to be blessed with an enormous GDP proportionate to our relatively small population. In terms of real dollars spent, Canada ranks 17th in the world (top 10 per cent) and seventh out of the 28 NATO countries. If we were to heed the hawks’ advice and follow Trump’s dictates to reach the arbitrary ‘two per cent of GDP’ goal, Canada would be the 8th largest defence spender in the world and third among NATO countries, behind only the USA and United Kingdom.
Then again, you have to ask yourself why we require such a massive increase in military capability. The current storyline is of course to contain those nasty old Russians. That is why Canada is sending 200 trainers to Ukraine and will soon deploy a 450-strong detachment into Latvia, right along the Russian border.
We know that Russia is bad because after the civil uprising in 2014 destabilized Ukraine, Vladimir Putin occupied and annexed the Crimea to secure Russia’s Black Sea naval base.
Russia is also flexing its muscle by propping up embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — again with the clearly stated intention of securing Russia’s Tartus naval base in the Mediterranean.
However, if Putin is indeed embarking on a campaign of world domination, as the fear mongers would have us believe, he has just taken a very unusual course of action.
Lost amid the swirling speculation caused by Trump’s first budget was the little reported news that the Kremlin has slashed Russia’s military budget by 25 per cent. Due to low oil prices and a slumping economy, Putin has reduced the defence budget from approximately $65-billion (US) to just $48-billion (US).
That’s right folks. Trump’s 10 per cent increase to the U.S. military is now greater than Russia’s entire defence budget.
If the biggest perceived threat to world security is drastically downsizing its military, does it make sense for Canada and the rest of the non-compliant NATO member states to boost their defence budgets by tens of billions of dollars to reach that arbitrary two per cent of GDP objective?