The Canadian government readily accepted NATO’s new strategic concept. The plan is strikingly blunt in its calls for a restoration of military readiness—a return to the more explicit principles of “deterrence” through conflict from the Cold War era. In a purported effort to “contribute to a more peaceful world”, NATO’s 2022 strategic concept promises a “360-degree” expansion of military power.
The proposal forces Canada and other NATO members to prepare to engage “regions of strategic interest” now and in the future. It aims to project NATO’s power to more boldly surround forces it identifies as aggressive.
While condemning “aggressive” governments such as China and Iran, NATO’s new strategy tasks members to prepare for “high-intensity, multi-domain combat” in “all domains.” The strategic concept promises “deterrence and forward defense with robust, multi-domain, combat-ready forces in place, improved command and control arrangements, pre-positioned munitions and equipment, and enhanced capacity and infrastructure to rapidly reinforce any ally.” In the short term, this means increasing NATO’s rapid reaction force to forty thousand troops, “prepositioning” more munitions in Eastern Europe, and expanding NATO’s “integrated air and missile defense.”
But this means more than just strengthening the military power of NATO members in Europe. The strategic concept also proposes further expansion of NATO’s power to “regions of strategic interest to the Alliance, including the Middle East and North Africa and the Sahel.”
After the concept was approved, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the document, saying, “NATO has reaffirmed its enduring transatlantic bond. NATO allies are united and determined to uphold the values of the Alliance and strengthen our defense alliance, now and in the future.”
The Trudeau government’s commitments to expand NATO’s power go beyond mere words and wearing flashy socks. Trudeau said “Canada is always part of NATO missions and continues to step up significantly” and promised to “rapidly increase” Canada’s military power and presence.
As the Toronto Star revealed, the Canadian government, in a series of backroom meetings, was one of the most active members pushing Finland and Sweden to join the self-described “nuclear alliance.” The Canadian government was also the first member to ratify its membership in early July, saying “the membership of Sweden and Finland will make NATO stronger.”
In a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky, two days before Ukraine applied to join the nuclear alliance on September 30, Trudeau pledged to maintain Canada’s military support. If the attempt is successful, it would likely give Ukraine the right to military confrontation under Article 5 of the NATO charter. In the past, Ukraine’s request was explicitly supported by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper – on the condition that Ukraine promised to continue opening its economy to Canadian finance.
The Trudeau government has also already pledged to continue deploying 1,000 Canadian Armed Forces personnel, aircraft and warships to Eastern Europe as part of Operation Reassurance. Defense Minister Anita Anand told Bloomberg that the military presence will “move toward a brigade-level force in Latvia,” ready to “provide critical capabilities, such as ammunition and explosives, air defense systems and anti-tank weapons.” systems.”
The Prime Minister’s Office further pledged an additional 3,400 troops to the Response Force. Moreover, it will also continue Canada’s military presence in Iraq as part of NATO’s “capacity building” mission and add “personnel to NATO’s Kosovo Force.”
On the campaign trail during the 2021 election, Trudeau pledged to ensure Canada is a “strong member of NATO,” committed to being “a partner in the defense of North America and in projecting our values around the world.”
Since February, NATO officials have renewed their pressure on members to increase their military spending. At a NATO press conference, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted that he would like to see member states do more and called on “all allies to step up.” Trudeau eagerly obeyed.
Canada’s 2022 budget proposes to increase the country’s annual military spending from $36.3 billion to $51 billion by 2025-26 — boosting Canada’s “hard power” — to meet NATO’s 2 percent defense target of GDP. Ahead of the 2022 budget, Defense Minister Anita Anand told CBC News that “I personally am putting forward aggressive options that would potentially see [Canada] exceed the 2 percent level.”
This huge planned increase in military spending, the budget says, is aimed at building on the government’s 2017 defense white paper, Strong, Secure, Engaged. In the document, the Trudeau government pledged to meet NATO’s goal on an ever-increasing basis by 2037, spending $63 billion a year on the military. This included the purchase of fifteen warships and eighty-eight new fighter aircraft.
The white paper outlines a plan to build a Canadian military ready to deploy up to 1,500 troops to fight “with decisive capabilities” on two battlefields simultaneously. “Acting decisively with effective military capabilities is the ultimate goal of Canada’s new approach to defence,” the paper said. “The Canadian Armed Forces will be ready to renew Canada’s strong commitment to NORAD and NATO, operating on multiple battlefields simultaneously,” including “one as a nation of lead.”
Attached to that list of priorities is a world map with Canadian forces expanding to Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia. These areas, coincidentally, are also major outflows of Canadian foreign direct investment.
NATO and its defenders claim that it is exclusively a system of “collective Western defense” and not a belligerent organization. But NATO is a military alliance that is developing a list of enemies — and potential enemies — as it builds a combat-ready military force to deploy around the world.
The press materials for the new strategic concept claim that NATO is neither a “threat” nor a force seeking “confrontations”. According to Stoltenberg, “We are not looking for a war, a conflict with Russia.” At the same time, we must make sure there is no misunderstanding about our obligation to protect all allies.” Canada’s foreign affairs minister also insists that — despite a massive increase in Canadian military spending to prepare, specifically, to conduct new combat operations — Canada is not seeking “international conflict.”
But the reality is that NATO has a mandate to expand. In effect, this means surrounding countries it claims are working to “disrupt” the “rules-based international order” with “integrated” land, naval and air power. It also has a mandate to extend its “reach” to regions of “interest” – most of which are far beyond European borders.
NATO’s peace bromides have directly contradicted its aggressive operations since its inception. In 1952, just three years after its founding, NATO authorized the infamous “Gladio Network” of covert, heavily armed guerrillas, constantly ready to attack perceived pro-Soviet parties and left-wing organizations across Europe. Terrorist circles, often linked to far-right forces, have reported stockpiles of weapons in Belgium, France, Italy, Greece and Germany.
From its earliest days, NATO directly aided the colonial conquests of its members. For this purpose, Canada itself supported the development of NATO’s integrated military forces and its “mutual assistance program” with more than 300 million dollars. That support remained firm even as NATO powers like France and Portugal helped finance wars of conquest against anti-colonial movements in Asia and Africa.
Former Prime Minister and ardent Cold Warrior Lester Pearson, who attended the signing of the treaty in 1949 and is credited with founding NATO, acknowledged this in a 1953 speech: “The assistance we have given France as a member of NATO may have helped recently to of some of its obligations in Indochina.” He also staunchly defended “those countries that still have direct responsibility for non-self-governing territories” against criticism or sanctions.
In addition to aid dollars to member states, NATO has also long flirted with greater military expansion outside of Europe. Minutes from the 1956 NATO conference confirm that the members, who were preparing to arm the alliance with atomic weapons, followed the Bandung Conference and “the threat of Soviet penetration into the Middle East.” The conference further promised to restore the Suez Canal to “full and free operation” after France, Britain and Israel invaded Egypt by the very end of the same year.
In 1963, Secretary-General D. U. Stikker boasted that “alliance military strength” had helped avoid any subsequent “crisis” for Western interests “since the conflict over Cuba.” In 1964, the US State Department used its role in NATO to recruit “materiel and manpower” from its allies as part of its campaign to “fly more flags in South Vietnam”.
In 1980, in response to the Soviet-Afghan War, NATO members were forced to increase their military spending and “act cohesively” with the United States while preparing new naval deployments in “remote areas of the world.” At a NATO conference in Brussels in 1980, Secretary General Joseph Luns even discussed sending “NATO-assigned forces” to “Southwest Asia” to support US efforts and defend the “vital interests of member countries outside the North Atlantic Treaty Area”. .
Since the end of the Cold War, when NATO expanded from sixteen to thirty members and launched its first official interventions, the former Canadian ambassador to NATO, Jean-Pierre Juneau, boasted of positioning the organization as an “alliance of first instance.” ” NATO must commit itself, Juneau said, to the gradual creation of “forces that can move quickly to sustain operations over distance and time.”
Since the 1991 Gulf War, NATO has launched enormously destructive campaigns of bombing and military occupation in the breakup of Yugoslavia, the US-led war in Afghanistan, and the overthrow of the Libyan government.
In all these cases, Canada has actively participated. These are just some of the more recent examples of what Prime Minister Trudeau calls “Canada’s strong commitment to NATO.”
NATO’s new strategic concept could be a step towards a world of greater military conflict. Canada’s support will be unwavering.