NATO experiencing ‘brain death,’ France’s Macron says

Source:Reuters Published: 2019/11/8 23:18:44

Merkel quickly rejects comments as ‘drastic’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (third from left) and French President Emmanuel Macron (second from right) talk on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France on August 25. Photo: IC

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

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

"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.

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 December 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 told Reuters that NATO had overcome differences in the past, citing the 1956 Suez Crisis and the 2003 Iraq War.

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.

NATO 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 October 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. 

In his interview, he also said the United States was showing signs of "turning its back on us."


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