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Hillman expects Biden to be less critical of defence spending ahead of visit

Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. says U.S. President Joe Biden may be less critical of Canada not meeting its defense spending targets than former President Barack Obama was when he addressed parliament.

As Biden makes his first official state visit to Canada this week, discussions on defense and security, the modernization of Norad and how to deal with Russia and China are on the agenda.

The last American president to visit Ottawa and address Parliament was Obama in 2016, when in a 50-minute speech he said: “NATO needs more Canada.”

Canada has long struggled to bring its defense spending to two percent of its GDP, a goal agreed to by NATO members as part of the Wales Summit Declaration in 2014.

But Kirsten Hillman told CTV’s Question Period host Vasi Kapelos that in an interview airing Sunday, she expects there to be a “recognition” by Biden during his visit of what the Canadian government is doing “right” — what done, what he is doing and what he is committed to spending.

“Will that mean that they will not urge us more?” I don’t know. We will see,” he said. “As I say, I think the United States always wants all partners to do as much as they can.”

“I’m not saying that the United States would not always like to see Canada and all allies do more, because I think we’re not the only ones that they often ask to do more,” he also said. “They’re always interested in all NATO allies doing more, but in my experience there’s definitely been a shift over the last few years because they’ve really seen us put some serious commitments on the table.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador David Cohen told Kapelos, also in an interview broadcast Sunday, that Canada has “upped” many of its spending commitments, including to support Ukraine, and plans to upgrade Norad, so he would “rather look at Canada’s demands.” “. behavior and what it actually does, as opposed to a formula.”

“But that doesn’t mean (defense spending) won’t and shouldn’t be a topic of ongoing conversation,” he added. “Because we need more defense dollars.”

“We are facing 21st century threats that require 21st century solutions and that require 21st century funding,” he also said.

When it comes to Norad in particular, Cohen said the U.S. delegation will likely seek specifics on when Canadian commitments, such as the radar systems it has promised to pay for, will be delivered.

“I think Norad has a perspective around the threat posture that will require an earlier investment than the Canadians’ current plan,” he said.

Hillman said “spending is starting to happen” on the Norad upgrade, but it will take time to install the new systems because they are not something you can buy “off the shelf.”

“As far as the specifics of what will be presented, I think it’s too early for me to say,” he also said. “Those are discussions we’re having internally to figure out how we’re going to have that conversation with the American people.”

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