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September 24, 2015


Last year I blogged about the decline in Canadian military spending as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The most recent figures at that time were for 2013. I noted that defence spending had fallen to 1.00 percent of GDP—down from 1.13 percent in 2006, when the Harper government entered office.

In 2015, only four of NATO’s 28 members are expected to spend less than Canada on defence as a percent of GDP.

I recently looked up the figures for 2014 and added them to the chart below. Canada’s defence spending is down again—to 0.98 percent of GDP. It’s a small decline from 2013, but significant for two reasons: first, the reduction continues, and second, Canada’s spending has now fallen to less than half of NATO’s 2 percent target.

The chart also highlights a striking longer-term trend. As Robert Greenhill and Meg McQuillan pointed out in their recent report on Canada’s “global engagement gap,” Canadian defence expenditure as a percent of GDP has been falling since the Mu...

June 20, 2014

Globe & Mail

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are grappling with big decisions as they prepare for their major annual summit in Wales. What stance should they adopt towards Russia? Should they keep the alliance’s doors open to new members? And what role, if any, should NATO play beyond Europe?

In March, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen invited ten independent experts to provide recommendations on strengthening the alliance. The group, which included a Canadian, an American and eight Europeans, submitted their report last week in Brussels in advance of the September summit.

While the Ukraine crisis is testing NATO’s unity and resolve, this crisis is one of several challenges facing the alliance, the experts group argued. These challenges arise from four major shifts taking place in world affairs.

The first shift is Russia’s emergence as an openly revisionist power whose actions threaten to replace a rules-based order in Europe with one governed by the ap...

June 19, 2014


In previous posts, I presented charts illustrating the recent decline in Canadian military spending as a percentage of GDP, and comparing Canada to other NATO and G7 countries.

This post examines regional patterns in global military spending.* The charts below indicate that defense expenditures have been going up in every region of the world except for three: North America, Western and Central Europe, and Oceania—namely, the West.

While it is true that the United States remains the world’s predominant military power, responsible for 37 percent of global military spending in 2013, trend-lines are important. Consider this: Between 2004 and 2013, as the US fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the net increase in American military spending was 12 percent. During the same period, China’s defence expenditures rose by 170 percent, while Russia’s rose by 108 percent. If these investment patterns continue, Western militaries will eventually lose the technological advantage that the...

June 2, 2014

Group of Policy Experts Report to the NATO Secretary-General*

[See also: Roland Paris' op-ed on the report.]

NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept defined three objectives for the Atlantic Alliance: a continuing commitment to collective defence; the ability to prevent and manage crises beyond its shores whose effects risk undermining members’ security; and deepening security cooperation with neighbours and more distant partners on challenges of common concern.

Just four years later, the risks that these three objectives were designed to confront have revealed themselves. Peace and stability in Europe are being challenged by a revisionist Russian government;political order in the Middle East, North Africa and across the Sahel is under threat; and territorial disputes in Asia pose risks to the economic interests of all members of the Alliance and challenge the security commitments of others. The emergence of a more dangerous world in the second decade of the 21st century poses a historic test f...

May 10, 2014

When NATO’s military commander, General Philip Breedlove, visited Ottawa this week, he noted that Canada was one of the first countries to contribute military equipment and forces to NATO’s temporary deployment of land, sea and air assets to Eastern Europe, where allies such as Poland and the Baltic countries are understandably nervous about Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The Conservative government deserves credit for these actions. NATO must demonstrate that it remains committed to the security of all its members, and these “reassurance” measures help to send this message both to our allies and to Russia.

"We would be foolish not to invest in our diplomatic and military capacities now."

Beyond this particular crisis, however, the alliance also relies on all its members to maintain military capabilities that can be used for collective operations. Without these capabilities, the deterrent effect of NATO – its ability to dissuade others from threatening the security of alliance members...

June 1, 2013

Perspectives on Politics 11:2 (June 2013), pp. 538-548

The US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, which deposed the Taliban regime, was followed by a major international effort to stabilize that country. More than a decade later, this effort has yielded neither security nor political stability in Afghanistan. After having been ousted from power, the Taliban reestablished itself in the borderlands of Pakistan and began fighting an effective guerrilla war against international and Afghan government forces. Despite heavy losses in recent years, the insurgency shows no sign of giving up. Meanwhile, attempts to establish a credible and legitimate Afghan government have been similarly disappointing. President Hamid Karzai, once hailed as the country's democratic savior, came to be seen instead as the leader of one of the most corrupt regimes on the planet, a perception that has damaged his government's legitimacy both at home and abroad. Afghanistan's development and human rights i...

June 19, 2012

Panel discussion on TVO The Agenda

"Canada stepped into Afghanistan in 2001. Almost 11 years later, what was accomplished, and what are we leaving behind? The Agenda looks at Canada's past, present and future role in Afghanistan."

January 11, 2012

This article first appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute Quarterly Review.

The grotesque display of Muammar Qaddafi’s bloodied corpse in Sirte, Libya, where he was captured and killed, and later in a Misrata meat locker, did little to build confidence in the commitment of Libya’s rebels to due process and the rule of law. It did, however, represent a clear culmination of the Libyan revolution. In recent years, we have seen few civil wars end with such devastatingly definitive victories.

This outcome also provided some vindication to Western leaders who initially pressed for military action last March, when Qaddafi threatened to overrun the city of Benghazi and to send his forces door to door to hunt down regime opponents. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron led the calls for action. US President Barack Obama eventually joined their cause and lent America’s diplomatic weight to the task of achievin...

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Roland Paris
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

University of Ottawa

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