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Russia, extremism in Middle East the biggest threats facing NATO: Deputy Secretary General

Click to play video 'President Trump has pushed NATO members to increase spending: Gottemoeller' President Trump has pushed NATO members to increase spending: Gottemoeller
WATCH: NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller tells Mercedes Stephenson the two biggest threats NATO is facing emanate from the north and east, Russia and ISIS with threats of violent extremism and terrorism – Nov 18, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of the story misquoted NATO deputy secretary general Rose Gottemoeller. The story has been updated. 

The greatest threats currently facing the NATO alliance are Russian aggression in and around the Ukraine and violent extremism in the Middle East, NATO deputy secretary general Rose Gottemoeller told Mercedes Stephenson in this week’s The West Block.

The Russian annexation of Crimea and the destabilization in the Donbass region of Ukraine represent two current concerns around Russian aggression.

“Clearly we have to be alert to those challenges that Russia poses us from the north all the way down to the southeast of the alliance,” she added.

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Russia annexed the Crimean region of Ukraine in 2014, and protests by pro-Russian and anti-government groups followed the annexation and have been ongoing ever since.

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In addition, however, Gottemoeller said that since 2014, the NATO alliance has also been involved in fighting against the rise of ISIS, the Islamic State’s seizure of Mosul and generally combating violent extremism.

“Each of those has equal attention in the NATO headquarters,” Gottemoeller said.

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She went on to praise Canada for its contributions in several missions, including its deployment to Iraq, its role in Ukraine for several years and its presence on the borders of Russia and Latvia.

“It’s been terrific, the kind of leadership Canada has been taking, and now Canada has stepped forward to take the lead of our new training mission in Iraq, and this is going to make a big difference to really I think restoring the institution of the Iraqi army, armed forces training and education overall, but also helping them deal with some real time problems,” Gottemoeller explained.

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READ MORE: Canada’s defence spending questioned at NATO parliamentary meeting

She noted, however, that the United States will continue pressuring Canada, along with other alliance nations, to meet commitments outlined in the defence investment pledge signed in Wales in 2014. As per that agreement, NATO countries pledged to increase their defence spending to two per cent of total GDP by 2024.

“So we’ll continue talking to our Canadian alliance members about that matter, but let me just say, I’m really very, very impressed by the contributions that Canada has been making.”

Canada’s defence spending was questioned recently at a meeting with NATO allies in Halifax, though Deputy Minister of National Defence Jody Thomas retorted that Canada is satisfied, saying the country is spending what it needs to in order to meet its alliance and other military commitments.

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“Canada’s defence budget is growing by 70 per cent as a result of Strong, Secure, Engaged (Canada’s defence policy),” said Thomas. “We also on the ground are leading a significant number of operations, and we have never not participated in a NATO commitment or operation.”

She also reiterated that Canada believes it contributes to the alliance in a “qualitative” way through an active participation in the alliance.

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Gottemoeller also discussed U.S. President Donald Trump’s consistent stance on defence burden sharing.

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“First and foremost, President Trump has been very tough about pushing the burden sharing message, and again I think that’s a good thing, it’s helped really to reverse the cuts,” she said.

According to the deputy secretary general, an additional USD$47 billion has flowed into NATO since Trump took office.

The Liberals have committed to increase Canada’s defence budget by 1.46 per cent by 2024.