Since the start of the Ukraine situation, and Crimea, the Canadian Government has been pushing for a stronger military response while backing their NATO allies in both Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. However, Canada is amongst the trailing countries who fail to spend NATO’s requirement of 2% of GDP. In fact, the Canadians are spending just a little over 1% of their current GDP.

As a matter of fact, only four countries are spending the required 2%: the United States, the United Kingdom, Greece and Estonia. Unfortunately, the Russians are once again demonstrating their willingness to re-expand their country. While the last few months was played through some proxy wars, mainly pro-Russian separatists, the recent incursion of armored columns in Ukraine backed by rockets clearly demonstrated Russia’s intentions.

Canada has been leading from for the front on the Ukraine situation since it began. The Conservative government justifiably sent CF-18s to Romania in early May, which are now stationed in Lithuania to patrol near the Russian border. The Army also sent paratroopers and other ground elements into Poland to train with the Polish and American soldiers. The Navy also sent a Canadian warship to boost NATO’s presence in the Black Sea.

Photo : Sgt Bern LeBlanc, Affaires publiques de l’Armée canadienne AS2014-0022-001
Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the U.S. 1-503 Airborne and the Polish 16th Airborne Battalion advance in formation during training at the Czertyn Engineers Training Centre in Poland on May 27, 2014

Having said that, we need to keep in mind that Canada is only spending half of the required NATO GDP expenditure. The big question here is, can Canada back tough talk with Russia based on that 1% GDP expenditure? NATO’s secretary general Rasmussen is trying to bolster the budgets of the trailing countries due to the recent Russian incursions in Ukraine. As a matter of fact, he told CBC host Evan Solomon that, “We have lived in a relatively quiet security environment, but the crisis in Ukraine as well as what we’re now seeing in Syria and Iraq [and] North Africa is a wake-up call. You can compare it with insurance. NATO is… security insurance. And for an insurance you pay a premium. Now the premium has gone up because of this unstable security environment and that’s why we need more defence investments in the coming years.”

Canada is currently swallowed-up in the F-35 controversy, as they selected it to be their next main fighter. While this fragile project is costing millions of dollars over the original estimate, ground troops are having issues repairing and upgrading the equipment that endured the harsh conditions of the 12-year campaign in Afghanistan.

With the projected $2.7 billion in defense cuts, how can we ensure our ground troops’ preparedness against a growing threat? The population might be tired of wars and military spending, but how can Canada defend their very own soil if most of the equipment is aging and needs major upgrades? Well, it’s not the current budget cuts that will allow that, unfortunately.

Some might applaud these cuts due to the fact that the Canadian Forces have one one officer for every three enlisted soldiers. A great reorganization of the chain of command could give some slack to the boys and girls who are fighting the wars on the ground, in the air and on the sea.

Another good example is the Arctic. Prime Minister Harper has been there a few times, stating that Canada’s claims are legal and that the Arctic should be Canadian. However, the Canadian Forces have only a small center for Winter Warfare and nothing else up there. Not even one combat arms unit is stationed up there. We have no boots on the ground in the Arctic, or “mukluks,” as PM Harper likes to say. The $2.7 billion cuts could be used to enforce our presence and consolidate it. Since 2007, PM harper has been telling the media that a deep-water port should be built in Resolute Bay so that our ships could dock there. As of today, no ports are built. We’re a Nordic country and we have NO deep-water ports.