Key Issues for Canada at the NATO Summit in Washington

CDA Institute Board members Kerry Buck, Vincent Rigby, and Stéfanie Von Hlatky, and CDA Institute Vice Chairman Gordon Venner convened to discuss likely issues at the upcoming NATO Summit in Washington, D.C. on July 9-11 and its implications for Canada.

The Importance of NATO for Canada and the Geopolitical Situation

This summit is uniquely important, as it comes at an inflection point in geopolitics given recent events in Russia-Ukraine, Israel-Gaza, and China-Taiwan. Rigby believes this is as dangerous a period that we have seen since the end of WWII. Alliances are increasingly complicated with tenuous relations particularly between Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, who are working together without concrete partnerships.

On top of an increasingly dangerous global alliance system, Canada is no longer shielded by its geography, with Buck noting that many challenges are “problems without passports”, like climate change, cyber disinformation, pandemics, and the modernization of nuclear arsenals. NATO gives us a path to tackle these increasingly proximate challenges, especially to our northern border, through cooperation with our allies. However, von Hlatky notes that this is also a difficult time for cooperation within NATO due to the increased number of members and the year of elections, which introduces unpredictability into the alliance.

Expected Focuses of the Summit


While Buck and Rigby do not expect Ukraine to be invited to join NATO, they will at least receive a promise for eventual membership. A new NATO mission will also be announced to coordinate assistance like training and weaponry, which is needed in the case that the US becomes isolationist. Rigby believes it is particularly important that the summit emphasizes that we are in the war for the long run.

Defence Spending Thresholds

There are two defence spending targets: 2% of GDP on defence spending, and 20% of defence budget on major new equipment, including research and development.

Canada is currently not meeting its 2% defence spending target, which it agreed to meet by 2024. While the 2% target itself is arguably arbitrary, the importance lies in meeting a commitment Canada has made to its allies. Buck notes that Trump has threatened to impose 10% tariffs on any ally that does not meet the NATO defence spending guidelines, and given the potential for his re-election, this is a risk that should be taken seriously.

Deterrence and Defence

NATO is lagging in defence production, and wants to be ready to protect critical infrastructure, and support the growth of deterrence efforts along all NATO flanks. While the summit will likely reinforce the work done on the eastern flank, there will likely be new information about the southern flank in the Middle East.

There are also concerns about NATO unity affecting the legitimacy of NATO deterrence efforts, as Hungary seeks to exclude itself from supporting Ukraine. Buck believes that Putin is counting on NATO unity fraying, so it is important to watch how NATO reinforces its unity. Von Hlatky also believes that the 75th Anniversary is a particularly good time for NATO to reaffirm its values, which Buck believes could reiterate that NATO is a legitimate alternative to Russia which smaller states can opt into.

Global Partnerships

Global partnerships will largely be focused on the Middle East and China. In the Middle East, they will mainly focus on countering Russian interference. In China, there will likely be high-level scoping of how big of a threat China is, but also more specific discussions around areas where China is already strong such as cyber and space. Rigby is interested to see if it goes further than identifying China as a threat, but more specific plans in tackling the new Indo-Pacific and Russia partnerships.

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