Romney, other U.S. senators want Canada to boost defense spending as NATO faces a ‘severe threat’

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Rena Bitter and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speak to members of the media while visiting the State Department’s Salt Lake City Passport Fair at the Bennett Federal Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. Romney and other senators say Canada must boost military spending.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is one of more than nearly two dozen Republican and Democratic U.S. senators who have signed a letter urging Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to come up with a plan to increase defense spending to strengthen NATO.

Calling themselves “friends of Canada,” the senators wrote, “we are concerned and profoundly disappointed that Canada’s most recent projection indicated that it will not reach its two percent commitment this decade,” a threshold tied to a nation’s gross domestic product, or GDP, that was agreed to by all of the military alliance’s allies in 2014 and again last year.

“As a founding member of NATO, Canada is a valued ally and has long contributed to essential NATO operations around the world. However, the transatlantic alliance now faces one of the most severe threat landscapes in its history,” the letter stated, saying all allies are being asked “to uphold their commitment to ensure a stronger, sustainable NATO.”

Radio Canada International described the letter as “unusually critical,” and said Canadian Defense Minister Bill Blair downplayed the issue expected to be raised at a July NATO Summit in Washington, D.C.. Blair told reporters Thursday he’s confident he can “assure those concerned senators that Canada will be a ready and capable ally to NATO.”

Blair, RCI reported, also said, “Canada is on a very strong upward trajectory in defense spending. We know we’ve got work to do, we’ve acknowledged that since day one.” Referring to a recent policy that would commit billions of dollars to military spending over the next decade, he said, “We’ve clearly indicated in our budget the path to getting that done.”

According to the senators’ letter, Canada’s defense spending will rise to just above 1.7% in 2029, At the same time, the senators said, NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, “is also in dire need of modernization, a process that can only move forward with direct cooperation” from the Canadian government.

“Canada will fail to meet its obligations to the alliance, to the detriment of all NATO allies and the free world, without immediate and meaningful action to increase defense spending,” the senators’ letter said, adding, “The United States’ commitment to NATO is unwavering.”

Besides Romney, a Republican and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, other senators who signed the letter include Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., co-chairs of the Senate NATO Observers Group.

Also signing were Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md; Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Pete Ricketts, R-Neb.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; Dan Sullivan, R-Ark.; Angus King, I-Maine; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; Tim Scott, R-S.C.; Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz.; and Ted Cruz, R-Texas.