Skip to main content

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan arrive at the NATO summit on July 11, 2018, in Brussels, Belgium.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau managed to steer clear of Donald Trump’s blast radius Wednesday as the two leaders converged for the first day of the NATO leaders’ summit, opting to meet informally to discuss North American trade irritants instead of the burning issue of defence spending.

But for anyone hoping to see sparks fly at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the U.S. president did not disappoint, complaining anew about defence spending even as he endorsed a joint communiqué supporting current commitments, and pointedly slamming a German natural gas pipeline deal he says has left the country “totally controlled” and “captive to Russia.”

Trudeau did not have an official bilateral meeting with Trump on Wednesday, but did have a conversation with the U.S. president “on the margins” of the NATO summit, said a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office.

Story continues below advertisement

Germany ‘totally controlled’ by Russia, Trump claims as fraught NATO summit begins

Trump, Trudeau and NATO: What the leaders are doing in Europe this week

The conversation focused on trade, including efforts to revamp the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement and the ramifications for those talks of Mexico’s presidential election, from which left-leaning populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador emerged victorious.

The conversation was “positive,” one official said. But Trudeau appeared to be far from Trump’s orbit during the traditional gathering of leaders for the NATO family photo op and ceremony, standing quietly to the side as Trump chatted with Britain’s Theresa May, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.

Trump held several official bilateral meetings, some 2,000 journalists following his every move, while Trudeau held only one: a talk with the prime minister of Sweden, Stefan Lofven, whose country is a partner nation to NATO.

The only time the Canadian prime minister pulled focus was during an early question-and-answer session with NATO delegates.

There, he announced that Canada will assume command of a new NATO training mission in Iraq – a deployment of 250 Canadian Armed Forces personnel, aimed in part at staving off Trump’s complaints that Canada and other NATO allies are not doing enough to contribute to their NATO defence commitments.

Story continues below advertisement

Trudeau portrayed himself as a kind of counterweight to Trump’s protectionist, anti-immigrant rhetoric, promoting the idea that Canada remains a refuge for migrants and that NATO countries must not only build military capacity, but also build societies that are “based on values and not identity.”

“Those kinds of principles, I think, are going to be extraordinarily important in the 21st century as we get flows of migrations, people looking for better lives, people fleeing,” he said.

“We have to start thinking about how we create societies that look at different stories as opportunities to learn and grow within your societies, rather than trying to keep the challenges of the world outside of your borders.”

The question of “how to be open” is something NATO and the developed world will have to continue to grapple with in the coming years, he added.

“Yes, we need to take care of the poverty and challenges we have at home, each of us – but we also need to look at what we do to alleviate stress, tensions, misery around the world, because if we don’t, the trend lines we’ll be on as a world will leave us all poorer, poorer off.”

Later in the day, NATO leaders issued an early final communiqué, in which they reaffirmed the alliance’s “unwavering commitment” to see member states dedicate two per cent of GDP on defence spending by 2024, acknowledging growth in military and defence spending among many ally nations.

Story continues below advertisement

That came despite Trump pushing NATO leaders behind closed doors, unsuccessfully, to increase the NATO defence spending target to four per cent of GDP.

In a move that echoed his contentious departure from the G7 summit in Quebec, Trump later posted a tweet that appeared to contradict the communiqué, insisting countries should “pay two per cent of GDP immediately, not by 2025.”

The summit wraps up Thursday after one more day of meetings.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.