July 21st, 2024

Trudeau attends NATO leaders’ summit as Russia escalates aggression toward Ukraine

By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press on July 9, 2024.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves as he boards a government plane as he departs for the NATO Summit from the airport on July 8, 2024 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to gather with NATO leaders Tuesday to mark the 75th anniversary of the defensive alliance as Russia escalates its aggression toward Ukraine.

The ongoing war will top the agenda of the three-day summit following Russian missile attacks Monday that left death and destruction, including at a large children’s hospital in Kyiv.

New, robust measures to support Ukraine are set to be announced during the summit, and officials say there will be information on the war-ravaged country’s efforts toward NATO membership.

At last year’s summit, attendees agreed that Ukraine should join the alliance once conditions permit – namely, the end of the Russian invasion and Ukraine making a series of democratic reforms to stamp out corruption.

Trudeau is expected to make forceful comments about the need to stay resolute in backing Ukraine. At the same time, Canadian officials will be facing questions about their own commitment to NATO when it comes to defence spending.

Members of the alliance have agreed to spend at least the equivalent of two per cent of their national gross domestic product on defence, but Canada has long fallen short of the target.

On Monday afternoon, Defence Minister Bill Blair suggested that Canada has come to the summit with the kind of detailed plan that allies have been asking for when he spoke at the Foreign Policy Security Forum in Washington.

Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., has said she’s faced some pressure on the issue from American officials, who expect every country to step up as much as it can.

Hillman joined Trudeau on Tuesday morning for a bipartisan meeting with U.S. senators, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The meeting included at least three of the 23 senators who wrote Trudeau a letter in May urging him to come to the summit with a clear plan to meet the NATO target.

Under Canada’s new defence policy, the federal government estimates its defence spending will rise to 1.76 per cent of GDP by 2029-30. The senators called that profoundly disappointing.

Trudeau is expected to deliver a keynote address later on Tuesday at the NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence. He is also slated to meet with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

The objectives of the meetings are to talk about how the relationship between the two countries is working, and to ensure that it is “is founded on a strong and stable and predictable rules-based system,” Hillman said. “And how we can work together to make sure that we make each other more resilient.”

Topics such as electric vehicles, critical minerals and energy transformation will be on the table.

Trudeau’s scheduled meetings with American politicians come as the looming possibility of a second Donald Trump administration hangs over the summit.

The prime minister faced criticism after Trump was first elected in 2016 for being unprepared, and their relationship faced struggles throughout the Republican’s four-year tenure.

In advance of the presidential election this fall, the Liberal government’s Team Canada has been pounding the pavement across the U.S. to make sure Canadians are prepared for any outcome.

Trudeau talked about the two countries’ economic ties during a meeting with Wes Moore, the democratic governor of Maryland, on Monday. He emphasized the importance of working together at a time of uncertainty.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2024.

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