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The West Block: NATO members must ‘pull up their socks,’ panel hears

Some countries need to “pull up their socks” when it comes to how much they spend on defence, says a top NATO official, but there are signs that member countries are beginning to get the message.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller made the comments on Friday during a live panel discussion at Halifax’s International Security Forum, moderator by the West Block‘s Tom Clark.

“Some countries haven’t stepped up” and committed to spending a minimum of two per cent of their Gross Domestic Product of defence by 2020 as NATO has asked, Gottemoeller noted.

READ MORE: Harjit Sajjan ‘looking forward’ to Trump’s inauguration, new relationships

But the alliance has recently noted an overall increase in defence spending across all member countries of three per cent. That’s encouraging, she said.

“People have to pull up their socks in many capitals, I don’t dispute that at all,” she added.

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Canada currently spends less than one per cent of GDP on defence, but the deputy secretary-general did not single out Ottawa in her comments.

Gottemoeller was not a formal member of the panel, which included Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance and former American diplomat Paula Dobriansky, but she attended the event and was asked for her thoughts by Clark during a question and answer session.

NATO has been in the spotlight recently with President-elect Donald Trump threatening to pull out of the alliance if other member countries don’t begin pulling more financial weight.

Dobriansky, a foreign policy expert who has served in key roles as a diplomat and policy maker in the administrations of five U.S. presidents, said pressure on NATO members would have increased no matter who won the American election.

“It’s not a new issue,” she said. “The United States has put this on the agenda of the NATO alliance (before), but we haven’t gotten results.”

The panel tackled a wide variety of issues beyond Canada’s NATO contribution, including how to handle the new Trump administration, Russian aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere, the crisis in Syria and Iraq, and peacekeeping operations around the world.

Watch the full discussion, moderated by Tom Clark, above.

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