Allies Start Planning a Life Without America – New York Times


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Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, addressing Parliament this month.

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Chris Wattie/Reuters

Many governments must be thinking along the same lines, but few have spelled it out so clearly. Germany did, when Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over.” Now Canada, a country tightly bound to its neighbor by history, alliance and the longest border in the world, has declared the need to recognize that the United States is relinquishing its role as the “indispensable nation.”

“The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course,” Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, told her Parliament this month.

Ms. Freeland never mentioned Donald Trump. That wouldn’t be diplomatic. But every line of her speech before a silent House of Commons was clearly about a world order thrown into crisis as President Trump scoffs at trade agreements, hectors allies, rips up the landmark Paris climate accord and otherwise demonstrates disdain for anything that isn’t “America First.” Canada’s course, Ms. Freeland said, would be the opposite of Canada First; it would be “the renewal, indeed the strengthening, of the postwar multilateral order.”

On the face of it, for Canada and other NATO members to increase their military spending, and in general for Western nations to assume more of the responsibilities borne for the past seven decades by the United States, has long been the goal of United States administrations — including those, like the Obama administration, with a far more global outlook. NATO has asked members to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. The United States spends over 3 percent, and Canada spends a tad over 1 percent. If getting allies to take on more responsibility were President Trump’s real goal, Canada’s stance would be a commendable result.

The problem is that it’s not so much Mr. Trump’s policies as his chaotic absence of clear policies that is pushing Canada, Germany and other allies to draw back from Washington. Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, sought early in the Trump administration to find ways of working together. But according to Canadian news reports, Mr. Trump’s rejection of the climate agreement was what finally persuaded Mr. Trudeau that he had to find his own way. Ms. Freeland’s powerful speech was, in effect, the proclamation of a new Trudeau Doctrine of actively pursuing multilateral trade, strengthening multilateral institutions and building a stronger military.

Neither Canada nor any other ally, of course, can begin to match the United States in might or wealth, and it remains to be seen whether Mr. Trudeau comes up with the money to achieve the goals Ms. Freeland enunciated. But it is surely to the advantage of Canada and other allies to step out from under America’s long shadow and take more responsibility for their shared security and values. How much better that would be, however, if they were not doing it largely to escape a shadow that has turned dark, turbulent and dangerous.

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