In Brief

Nato experiencing ‘brain death’ warns Macron

French president says Europe must ‘wake up’ or risk disappearing geopolitically

The French President Emmanuel Macron has issued a stark warning over the future of Nato, saying European countries can no longer rely on the US to defend its allies.

In a “blunt” interview with The Economist, Macron said Europe stands on “the edge of a precipice”, and needs to start thinking of itself strategically as a geopolitical power otherwise “we will no longer be in control of our destiny.”

“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of Nato. You have no coordination whatsoever of strategic decision-making between the United States and its Nato allies” he said, singling out the “uncoordinated aggressive action by another Nato ally, Turkey, in an area where our interests are at stake”.

Accusing the Trump administration of turning its back on its long-standing partners in Europe, he also said he was unsure whether he still believed in the “collective defence” stipulations of article five of Nato’s founding treaty, under which an attack against one member is considered an attack against all members.

Trump has frequently accused European Nato members of failing to provide their fair share of military spending and for relying too heavily on the US for their defence. Last year, he threatened to “moderate” Washington's commitment to the alliance if members fail to meet a 2% of GDP defence spending target.

By contrast, his abrupt decision to pull most US forces out of north-eastern Syria in October angered many European Nato members and opened the way for Turkey, itself a powerful Nato member, to push into Syria and expel Kurdish fighters from a security zone along its border.

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“This about much more than one US president” says BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus. “Nato must defend against multiple threats which different countries perceive in different ways. And a number of allies seem less and less keen to espouse the liberal democratic values that lie at Nato's core”.

The Guardian says Macron's comments amount to a “questioning of Nato’s effectiveness and suggestion European countries in the 29-member alliance should reassess their situation” ahead of a 70th anniversary summit with leaders including Donald Trump in the UK early next month.

Highlighting “the deep splits between Europe and the US over the transatlantic military alliance” the Financial Times reports his remarks “triggered angry private reactions from some European diplomats who saw them as damaging to Nato — if not necessarily untrue”. 

In a sign of splits within Europe as well, DW says Macron's remarks are “a long way” from those made by German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer a day earlier, in which she described the alliance as a cornerstone of modern Europe.

“Nato is and will remain the anchor of European security,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said at a private event with Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg. “But it is also clear that Europe must increase its own complementary ability to act.”

Reuters reports France “has long pressed for closer European defense cooperation but has faced resistance from Britain and others which say the United States remains key to Western defense, especially in the face of a more assertive Russia”.

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