Trudeau visits Canadian troops leading NATO mission in Lavtia ahead of summit

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Canada and other countries have faced USA pressure to meet the alliance's target of spending two per cent of GDP on defence and 20 per cent of defence budgets on equipment - a target member states agreed to in 2014 at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Wales.

Canada assumes command of the mission, which will be led by an as yet unnamed Canadian major-general, for one year.

The Prime Minister's Office said Trump and Trudeau "had a conversation on the margins of the meetings today about trade, including NAFTA". Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has asserted numerous times that Canada remains committed to leading the mission for the foreseeable future.

But given that Trump has followed through on other threats - including tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and the European Union, as well as a full-blown trade war with China - Perry said allies ought to be concerned about the possibility that Trump isn't bluffing.

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He wants them to earmark four per cent of their annual GDP for their defence budgets - double the current target of two per cent.

But critics have noted that even with the increase, Canadian defence spending will top out at 1.4 per cent of GDP, and it's unclear to what degree extending an existing mission will satisfy Trump's demands for Canada and others to put up more cash. "It is in the interests of security of each state and of the world", he said.

Questioned repeatedly about Trump's attacks on European allies and Canada, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged the trans-Atlantic differences but refused to say whether the United States leader's attacks are damaging the alliance.

Canadian forces are already deployed in Iraq as part of Operation IMPACT, which one of several military adviser missions carried out US and coalition forces under Operation Inherent Resolve.

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Some see the controversial meeting as an undermining of the alliance itself, considering some of NATO's active military missions - including the one in Latvia - were undertaken in direct response to Russia's escalating aggression in the Baltic region.

The intervening years saw Canada deploy fighter jets, surveillance planes and air-to-air refuellers, a transport aircraft, a medical hospital and hundreds more special forces to help the coalition and Kurdish and Iraqi military forces push ISIL back and eventually defeat it on the battlefield.

"My message is that we are actually now stepping up", Stoltenberg said.

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