U.S. President Donald Trump put Justin Trudeau on the spot Tuesday over Canada’s NATO defence spending.
“What are you at? What is your number,” the U.S. president pointedly asked, referring to how much Canada spends on NATO defence as a percentage of its GDP. The two men were meeting at a NATO summit in London.
Prime Minister Trudeau replied, “The number we talk about is 70 per cent increase over these past few years.” He then mentioned “significant” spending on jets and naval vessels.
But Trump, who has repeatedly demanded that all NATO allies meet a benchmark figure of 2 per cent of GDP, was not to be diverted from his question.
“Where are you now in terms of your number?” he said again.
There was a brief exchange between Trudeau and an adviser before the prime minister replied, “1.4.”
Last week, NATO estimated Canada would spend about 1.31 per cent of its GDP on its military this year.
“They’re getting there,” Trump told reporters. “They know it’s important to do and their economy is doing well. They’ll get there quickly I think.”
Meanwhile, Trump and Emmanuel Macron sparred in front of reporters over Turkey’s future in NATO and other differences, hours after the U.S. president assailed his French counterpart for “very nasty” comments about the military alliance.
The exchange was a vivid display of the sour turn in the relationship between the two men, who were once close enough that Trump made Macron the guest of his first state dinner as president.
During remarks to reporters at a meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit, Trump and Macron began by gently outlining their differing views on the alliance. But the conversation became more pointed after Trump invited Macron to take back Islamic State captives held by U.S.-allied forces in Syria.
“Would you like some nice ISIS fighters?” Trump asked. “I could give them to you, you could take every one you want.”
“Let’s be serious,” Macron responded.
Earlier in the day, Trump said Macron was “very disrespectful” when he warned recently of the “brain death” of NATO. The remarks were “very dangerous” and Trump said he could even envision France “breaking off.”
“NATO serves a great purpose,” the U.S. president said, adding that Macron’s remarks were a “very, very nasty statement essentially to 28 countries.”