Strength brings respect. Tough talk without the ability to back it up brings contempt.
Canada has been talking a tough game in regards to Russia’s massing of troops on their border near Ukraine:
“Any movement of Russian troops into Ukraine will be absolutely unacceptable and met with a clear response from the international community,” said Justin Trudeau.
“We have been engaged in significant diplomatic efforts as a global community and been very, very clear that it is not in the interest of Ukrainian people, it’s not in the interests of the Russian people, to see a conflict in which Russian and Ukrainian soldiers are killing each other,” he added.
Foreign minister Melanie Joly had this to say:
“The amassing of Russian troops and equipment in and around Ukraine jeopardizes security in the entire region.”
“These aggressive actions must be deterred. Canada will work with its international partners to uphold the rules-based international order and preserve the human rights and dignity of Ukrainians.”
There’s nothing wrong with those statements.
Canada and other free nations should be critical of Russia’s attempts to influence a NATO retreat in Eastern Europe.
The problem is that Canada has very little to back up those words, meaning we are in essence expecting others to enforce our tough talk.
A moribund military
The issue for Canada is that our armed forces are in a moribund state.
Decades of underfunding by both Liberal & Conservative governments and a horrific procurement process has left our military without effective equipment.
Everything takes too long to order, and then too long to arrive, and is always way overbudget.
Consider our fighter jets.
With our CF-18s having reached the end of their operational life, both Conservative & Liberal governments failed to procure replacements. The Liberals then went with a stopgap, buying old F-18s from Australia. We replaced old F-18s with old F-18s.
We also have very little in the way of ground forces, with fewer than 100 tanks in operation (82 Leopard 2 tanks and about 50 Leopard 1’s the government sought to sell).
We all know about the Sea King debacle and the four Victoria-Class submarines that became an instant money-sink and could barely even be used.
And even when we have equipment, finding people to join up and operate it has been a struggle.
To say Canada’s armed forces have received negative attention would be an understatement.
It seems as if the only time the CAF gets in the news is when a new sex scandal emerges regarding a top official.
Unsurprisingly then, recruitment isn’t going so well:
“The Canadian Armed Forces is dealing with a mounting personnel shortage, as new figures show military recruitment and training have failed to keep pace with plans to expand the force, resulting in more than 12,000 unfilled positions.
The figures provided to The Canadian Press underscore recent warnings from chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre and other senior commanders about the state of Canada’s military, which has faced growing demands at home and abroad.
And while military officials have previously blamed the COVID−19 pandemic for cutting into the recruitment and training of new members, one defence analyst suggests the recent sexual misconduct scandal has also taken a toll.
“The Canadian military had a pretty bad year in terms of its public reputation, and I would imagine that would have a negative impact on more than just the number of women coming into the Forces,” said Canadian Global Affairs Institute president David Perry.”
Liberal military ‘expansion’ plans are laughable, with just 2,500 regular forces being added, and 1000 reservists being added.
And of course, not only have those weak targets not been met, but things have gone backwards:
“Yet while the military is supposed to have added 4,500 troops, it instead shrunk by more than 700 since the end of 2020. Taken altogether, the Canadian Armed Forces currently needs more than 6,750 regular force members and nearly 5,500 additional reservists.”
As if that isn’t enough, about 900 soldiers could be removed due to the foolish vaccine mandate in the armed forces.
The military has also been pushing for more ‘diversity & inclusion,’ allowing political correctness and quotas to get in the way of the real focus of the armed forces: Training people to defend the nation/our allies in potential armed conflict.
The cold hard truth
And this brings us to the main problem behind all of this:
Far too many people in Canada – particularly in the government – have a naïve view of the world.
They seem to believe that nice words and ‘hoping for the best’ can be a substitute for actual power.
But that’s not how it works in the real world.
Countries have influence in direct proportion to how much money and military power they have.
The US has money and military power, while Russia’s problem is that they have military power but a much weaker economy than the US.
China is attempting to become dominant in both money and military power, but faces growing challenges due to the backlash against the actions of the CCP both internally and externally.
Europe possesses money but has chronically underspent on their military, thus leaving them vulnerable to Russia.
This is the point at which many claim that Canada can never be influential militarily, because we don’t have the population size or economic size of superpowers.
Yet, that is not quite true.
According to NationMaster, Canada’s GDP is estimated at 1.82 trillion, while Russia’s GDP is 2.01 trillion.
Russia has a significant military advantage because they have a home-grown military-industrial-complex, and at purchasing power parity can afford a larger military than their GDP would indicate. They also have many decades of experience dating back to the Soviet Union when it comes to weapons development.
That being said, the fact is Canada’s economy is comparable in size to Russia, meaning our country has significant financial resources to use for our military.
And, while we don’t have the military-industrial-complex that Russia does, we are neighbours and close allies with the United States, the country with the most well-developed, advanced, and powerful military-industrial-complex on Earth.
If Canada allocated even 2.5% of our GDP to our military (0.5 above the NATO target), we would have a significantly advanced military force.
That would allow our rhetoric on issues like Ukraine & Russia to be backed up with something tangible. Indeed, countries like Russia respect actual strength, not just empty rhetoric. That’s why Russia insists on having meetings with the United States, since the US has earned respect as the world’s pre-eminent military power.
At this point, when Canada talks tough we are basically expecting the US to back up that talk, without the ability to provide much reciprocal assistance.
To be a true ally, and to be a truly secure nation in a world that is growing more competitive and militarily unstable, Canada must strengthen our armed forces.
How would this be done?
Some may see calling for a more powerful military as hypocritical, given how I advocate for less government spending and support limited government.
However, it’s all about recognizing that there are some legitimate functions of the government, and national defence is one of them.
Indeed, the federal government should be more focused on national defence and foreign policy, rather than trying to micromanage our day-to-day lives and manipulate the economy.
Consider that during the pandemic the Liberals have run deficits of hundreds of billions of dollars, and are pledging hundreds of billions more in new spending.
Yet, if we were to double Canada’s military spending that would bring us to an extra $20 billion per year. If spending in other areas was frozen or cut, with more responsibility devolved to the provinces, this could easily be affordable.
Government has a role in defending the security of the nation from external threats, and building a strong military is a key part of that.
We have also seen – in both natural disaster and the pandemic – that the military often helps out domestically, meaning a stronger military also provides benefits within the country.
If you agree that Canada needs to toughen up and strengthen our military, I encourage you to contact your MP and make your voice heard.
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