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NATO now 'brain dead', says Macron

China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-09 07:36

French president takes swipe at lack of coordination and US unpredictability

BERLIN/PARIS - France's president warned fellow European leaders on Thursday that NATO was dying, citing a lack of coordination and US unpredictability under President Donald Trump. The comments were quickly rejected as "drastic" by the German chancellor.

In an interview with British weekly The Economist, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed doubt about US-led NATO's security maxim that an attack on one ally is an attack on all. It has underpinned transatlantic ties since the alliance's foundation in 1949.

"What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO," Macron said. Asked whether he still believed in the Article Five collective defense guarantee of NATO's treaty, Macron answered: "I don't know", although he said the United States would remain an ally.

NATO now 'brain dead', says Macron

Macron has said there is a lack of strategic coordination between European allies on the one hand and the United States and Turkey, with NATO's second-largest military, on the other.

While France has traditionally had an ambivalent role in NATO, taking no part in its strategic military planning from 1966 to 2009 despite being a founding member, Macron's comments - a month before NATO's Dec 4 summit in London - were unexpected.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said he was overreacting.

"The French president has found rather drastic words to express his views. This is not how I see the state of cooperation at NATO," she told a news conference in Berlin alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg said NATO had overcome differences in the past, citing the 1956 Suez Crisis and the 2003 Iraq War.

The secretary-general and many allies want to project an image of unity at the summit.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in Leipzig, Germany, ahead of the 30th anniversary on Saturday of the fall of the Berlin Wall that is seen by many as NATO's crowning achievement through its four-decade role, said the alliance was perhaps one of the most important "in all recorded history."

In Russia, Macron's comments were hailed as an accurate depiction of NATO's state.

"Golden words ... an exact definition of the current state of NATO," Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman of Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote on her Facebook page.

The alliance was shaken by Trump's portrayal of it as being in crisis at the last summit in Brussels in July, and its image of unity took a hit when Turkey defied its allies to launch a military incursion into Syria on Oct 9.

Macron had earlier decried NATO's inability to react to what he called Turkey's "crazy" offensive and said it was time Europe stopped acting like a junior ally when it came to the Middle East.

Cold War relic?

In his interview, he also said the United States was showing signs of "turning its back on us", as demonstrated by Trump's sudden decision last month to pull troops out of northeastern Syria without consulting the allies.

Once seen by some as a Cold War relic until Russia incorporated Crimea in 2014 following a referendum, the 29-member alliance is confronting militant attacks in Europe and seeking to defend against the perceived threat of ballistic missiles from Iran.

Macron lauded nascent European defense integration initiatives independent of the US. His so-called European Intervention Initiative has so far brought together the military forces of nine members ready to react to crises near Europe's borders without NATO or the US.

The European Union also recently launched its own multibillion-dollar defense plans to develop and deploy military assets together after years of spending cuts that have left European military forces without vital capabilities and reliant on Washington.

"The European Union cannot defend Europe," Stoltenberg said in a speech in Berlin.

Since taking office in 2017, Trump has accused European NATO allies of not shouldering their fair share of the cost of defending Europe. He has demanded they double NATO's military spending goal of 2 percent of economic output, set in 2014.

They retorted that security was not just about spending targets, but have all since raised their defense outlays, although some remain short of the 2 percent objective.

In a change of policy, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Thursday that Berlin would spend 2 percent of its economic output on defense by 2031.

Agencies

(China Daily 11/09/2019 page8)

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