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More to do on defence, Trudeau says after meetings with Polish leaders in Warsaw

PM: More to do on defence

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended Canada's defence spending Monday as Polish counterpart Donald Tusk urged the rest of the West to confront the very real dangers Russia poses at a critical juncture in its war with Ukraine.

There is still more to do, but Canada is doing it, Trudeau said during a joint news conference alongside Tusk, who now finds himself back in his old post as Poland's prime minister.

"I recognize Poland stepping up significantly in its own military spending. But so will Canada," Trudeau said, the two leaders flanked by the Polish and Canadian flags.

"We will continue to make sure that the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces — and the people around the world, our allies, who rely on them — will continue to get the equipment and the support they need."

Tusk, for his part, steered his criticisms away from Canada directly as he urged the "whole western world, and especially Europe" to ensure Ukraine has the resources it needs for a decisive victory.

In the coming years, "or even months," it will be vital that NATO countries maximize their ability to produce and provide more than enough ammunition, weapons and supplies for Ukraine to defend itself.

"Otherwise, Europe will be subject to Russian aggression and will not be able to help Ukraine," he said.

"There is no reason for the fact that such rich countries as European countries or NATO countries could not build altogether the defence capacities that would really exceed the Russian ones."

Canada has long faced both domestic and international pressure to spend two per cent of its gross domestic product on defence — a NATO-mandated target most other allies are expected to hit by the end of the year.

Canada's defence spending currently hovers around 1.3 per cent of GDP.

Poland, by comparison, boasts one of the highest ratios of military spending to GDP in the world, Tusk said. But it can't keep Russia at bay alone, he added: "I will not replace other countries."

Canada's defence commitments to Poland and Ukraine to date have been "outstanding," Tusk said, acknowledging former U.S. president Donald Trump's fondness for bellicose rhetoric around NATO spending.

The easiest way to silence such complaints, he suggested, is for all NATO members to step up and meet the mandated two per cent spending threshold.

"I think that we would deprive of arguments ... such politicians as the former U.S. president, who think that NATO will not defend allies if they don't fulfil NATO requirements," he said.

"The simplest answer is that we all, with no exception, fulfil those requirements."

It will happen sooner or later, Tusk added — "and it's better than they do it sooner than later."

Canada is the seventh-largest contributor to defence of all 31 NATO allies, said Trudeau, noting that his Liberal government has already committed to a new fleet of high-tech stealth fighters and the modernization of the Canada-U.S. joint command known as Norad.

Both leaders acknowledged that there are those elsewhere in the world, including in Europe, whose willingness to support Ukraine threatens to falter and who stand in the way of a united front.

"It is a time where citizens cannot take their democracies for granted," Trudeau said.

"We need to continue to be there, to lean in — not just on being worried about their daily challenges ... but making sure we are building peace, stability and prosperity for future generations as well."

Trudeau, who spent Saturday in Kyiv reaffirming Canada's support for Ukraine, met earlier with Tusk and President Andrzej Duda at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw.

He capped off his trip Monday with a visit to the Polish capital, his first since a political sea change in the country late last year ended eight years of national conservative rule.

Tusk, who also served as prime minister from 2007-14, is a centrist who took office in December and has been working to strengthen ties with the rest of Europe. Duda, meanwhile, stands on the other side of the political divide — a conservative leader who now finds himself contending with a very different government.

The meetings focused on the dangers facing Ukraine and the importance of the NATO alliance, the primary bulwark between Russia and the rest of Europe.

Those meetings were no less vital than the ones he had Saturday, Trudeau said.

"For me, it was just as important to come see you, to come here to Poland," he told Tusk.

"The active involvement of Poland ... in standing up to Russia, in pushing back on its illegal destabilization of the rules-based order, is unbelievably important."

Both Canada and Poland have rallied around Ukraine as the country enters its third year of war with dwindling supplies and personnel challenges, prompting an urgent plea for help from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

His troops were recently forced to withdraw from the strategic eastern city of Avdiivka, handing Moscow one of its biggest victories of the war to date. And Russia still controls roughly a quarter of the country after Ukraine failed to make any major breakthroughs with its summertime counteroffensive.

On Monday, a Ukrainian military spokesman confirmed further withdrawals — this time from a village west of Avdiivka as soldiers struggled to hold the line against advancing Russian enemies.

Despite suffering high losses of troops and equipment, Ukraine says, Moscow's troops are driving on, smashing towns and cities with their superior firepower.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustan Umerov complained Sunday that half of promised Western military support to Ukraine fails to arrive on time, making it difficult to plan strategy efficiently.

More than 20 European heads of state and government and other Western officials were due to meet in Paris on Monday to discuss the war at what French President Emmanuel Macron called a "critical" juncture. He says Kyiv needs more military resources and likely will require them over an extended period of time.

U.S. President Joe Biden was also seeking to remove political roadblocks on providing more aid to Ukraine, convening the top four congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday.

The bleak outlook was no doubt part of the reason Trudeau felt the need to mark Saturday's two-year anniversary of the invasion in person, renewing his vow to back Ukraine until it sees victory.

"Putin cannot win," Trudeau said Saturday in a speech from Hostomel airport, where Ukrainian soldiers beat back a Russian assault on the first day of the invasion in 2022.

"Ukraine will see victory, just like what happened on this ground two years ago."

Poland wants to ensure Canada and other allies stay engaged in the war as it continues to rage just over the border, Canada's ambassador to the country said in an interview on the weekend.

Catherine Godin called the war in Ukraine a real and present threat to the people of Poland.

The two countries have been co-operating on military training missions to bolster the military skills of Ukraine's armed forces. And Poland appreciates Canada's role in guarding NATO's eastern flank in Latvia, Godin said.



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