Bill Blair, Minister of Defense of Canada, speaks to the press after his arrival at NATO headquarters on the first day of the NATO Defense Ministers’ Meeting on June 13, 2024 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images)

Ahead of the upcoming NATO Summit in Washington, Breaking Defense has collected exclusive opinion pieces from key defense officials along the alliance’s northern border — the Arctic, where Russia and China are increasingly active. Below, Canadian Minister of National Defence Bill Blair lays out the priorities for his nation.

Canada is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — and as we head into this year’s Leaders Summit in Washington, our commitment to the Alliance is as strong as ever.

NATO is strong, united and only growing in size and strength. Canada is proud to have been the first country to ratify the accession of fellow Arctic nations Sweden and Finland. And, as Ukraine continues to fight heroically for the international rules that keep us all safe, we are committed to doing our part to provide Ukrainians the tools and training that they require. Let there be no doubt: Canada stands with Ukraine until it is victorious, and we look forward to eventually welcoming it into the Alliance.

Canada leads over 10 nations as the framework nation of NATO’s multinational battle group in Latvia. In partnership with our Latvian allies, we are surging the battle group to brigade strength, with over 2,200 Canadian Armed Forces members to be persistently deployed. I have visited Latvia myself and seen the trust and confidence between all members of the Battle Group — and just how appreciated their presence is by Latvians.

At sea, a Canadian ship, HMCS Charlottetown, recently took over as flagship of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 — and we will continue to persistently deploy our warships to support the security of the Euro-Atlantic area.

Canada’s contributions to NATO are significant and enduring, but I want to be clear: We must and will invest more in defense and augment our military’s ability to contribute to the Alliance.

We have made some significant progress. This spring, Prime Minister Trudeau and I released a defense policy update entitled Our North, Strong and Free, which focuses on the security of our Arctic — which is also NATO’s northern and western flank.

The Arctic is warming at four times the global average, making our waters more accessible, and making it easier for Russia and China to send their vessels into the region.

Potential adversaries are already exploring our waters, probing our infrastructure and collecting intelligence. To protect Canada and the entire Alliance, our military needs the resources, the infrastructure and the people to respond accordingly. That’s why this policy invests in early warning aircraft, maritime sensors and Arctic infrastructure that will enable our military to maintain a more persistent presence in the region. Importantly, it will give us what we need to assert our sovereignty in the North.

In addition to this, we are already investing $38.6 billion to modernize Canada’s NORAD contributions and bolster our ability to protect North America in partnership with our most important ally, the United States.

To remain a strong partner to allies around the world, we need to be strong here at home first — and that is what this policy is focused on.

This policy is not an aspirational document; it is backed by real investments booked in Canada’s fiscal framework.

Our North, Strong and Free boosts our defense spending with an additional $8.1 billion over the next five years, and $73 billion dollars over the next two decades. By the end of this decade, our defense spending is projected to reach 1.76 percent of GDP, a significant step toward reaching our NATO commitment of 2 percent. With these investments, Canada’s defense budget will have almost tripled by the end of the decade from where it was in 2014. And, we will have increased our defense spending by 27 percent year over year.

The policy also identifies additional capability investments that Canada will explore, like submarines and integrated air and missile defense capabilities, which I am confident will help us meet the target.

Let’s be clear: Canada is committed to meeting its pledge, and though we have made significant progress, we know we have more work to do.

The threat environment we find ourselves in is changing rapidly, and we need to be able to respond. Canada will do what is necessary to protect our country, our continent, and the rules-based international order that has kept us all safe and prosperous for generations.

NATO is more important than ever to our collective security — and we will remain a committed and engaged ally in the decades to come.

Bill Blair is the Minister of National Defence for Canada.