Macron says al­liance is ‘brain dead’; Merkel re­jects warn­ing

Merkel, Pom­peo de­fend 70-year-old mil­i­tary al­liance

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE -

PARIS (AFP) — NATO part­ners ar­gued Thurs­day over the al­liance’s worth af­ter French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said it was un­der­go­ing “brain death,” prompt­ing a fierce de­fence of the bloc from Ger­many, Canada and the U.S. while draw­ing praise from non-mem­ber Rus­sia.

“What we are cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing is the brain death of NATO,” Macron told The Economist mag­a­zine in an in­ter­view pub­lished Thurs­day, ahead of a NATO sum­mit next month.

But Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel de­fended the 70-year-old mil­i­tary al­liance as “in­dis­pen­si­ble” and said Macron’s “sweep­ing judge­ments” were not “nec­es­sary.”

Ad­dress­ing jour­nal­ists by Merkel’s side, NATO chief Jens Stoltenber­g warned that a weak­ened transat­lantic al­liance could “di­vide Europe,” while the U.S. Sec­re­tary of State, also in Ger­many, in­sisted NATO was “im­por­tant, crit­i­cal.”

In the in­ter­view, Macron de­cried a lack of co­or­di­na­tion be­tween Europe and the U.S. and lamented re­cent uni­lat­eral ac­tion in Syria by Turkey, a key mem­ber of the 70-year-old mil­i­tary al­liance.

“You have no co­or­di­na­tion what­so­ever of strate­gic de­ci­sion-mak­ing be­tween the United States and its NATO al­lies. None,” he said.

“You have an un­co­or­di­nated ag­gres­sive ac­tion by an­other NATO ally, Turkey, in an area where our in­ter­ests are at stake,” Macron added ac­cord­ing to an English tran­script re­leased by The Economist.

Af­ter talks with Stoltenber­g in Ber­lin, Merkel said Macron “used dras­tic words, that is not my view of co­op­er­a­tion in NATO.”

She added: “I don’t think that such sweep­ing judge­ments are nec­es­sary, even if we have prob­lems and need to pull to­gether,” while in­sist­ing that “the transat­lantic part­ner­ship is in­dis­pen­si­ble for us.”

Stoltenber­g said any at­tempt to dis­tance Europe from North Amer­ica “risks not only to weaken the Al­liance, the transat­lantic bond, but also to di­vide Europe.”

In a re­cent set­back for the al­liance, a Turk­ish mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion against Kur­dish forces in north­ern Syria was staunchly op­posed by fel­low mem­bers like France, but made pos­si­ble by a with­drawal of U.S. forces or­dered by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

For Macron, “strate­gi­cally and po­lit­i­cally, we need to recog­nise that we have a prob­lem.”

“We should re­assess the re­al­ity of what NATO is in light of the com­mit­ment of the United States,” he warned, adding that: “In my opinion, Europe has the ca­pac­ity to de­fend it­self.”

Stoltenber­g said he wel­comed ef­forts to strengthen Euro­pean de­fence, “but Euro­pean unity can­not re­place transat­lantic unity. We need to stand to­gether.”

Pom­peo, on a visit to the Ger­man city of Leipzig as part of an­niver­sary events for the fall of the Ber­lin Wall 30 years ago, agreed.

“I think NATO re­mains an im­por­tant, crit­i­cal, per­haps his­tor­i­cally one of the most crit­i­cal strate­gic part­ner­ships in all of recorded his­tory,” he told jour­nal­ists.

In Ot­tawa, Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau told re­porters the al­liance con­tin­ues to play “an ex­tremely im­por­tant role in not just the North At­lantic but in the world.”

Macron said it was cru­cial to seek rap­proche­ment with Moscow, which re­gards NATO and its ex­pan­sion into ex-Com­mu­nist bloc states with huge sus­pi­cion given that the al­liance was set up to counter the USSR.

“We need to re­open a strate­gic di­a­logue, with­out be­ing naive and which will take time, with Rus­sia,” said Macron, who wants to bro­ker an end to the con­flict in Ukraine and has courted Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin as a part­ner.

He said NATO did not re­ex­am­ine its role af­ter the col­lapse of the Soviet Union and “the unar­tic­u­lated as­sump­tion is that the en­emy is still Rus­sia.”

And for all the anti-West­ern bom­bast from the Krem­lin, Putin would find his long-term strate­gic op­tions lim­ited to “a part­ner­ship pro­ject with Europe,” the pres­i­dent said.

“If we want to build peace in Europe, to re­build Euro­pean strate­gic au­ton­omy, we need to re­con­sider our po­si­tion with Rus­sia,” he in­sisted.

From Moscow, for­eign min­istry spokes­woman Maria Zakharova hailed Macron’s “brain death” ob­ser­va­tion as “golden words … a pre­cise def­i­ni­tion of the cur­rent state of NATO.”

The French pres­i­dent, seen by many an­a­lysts as Europe’s most prom­i­nent leader amid Brexit and Merkel’s loom­ing exit in 2021, has sought to stand tall on the for­eign pol­icy stage and to im­ple­ment a vi­sion of re­form­ing Europe.

AP-Yon­hap

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, right, and NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jens Stoltenber­g, left, ad­dress the me­dia dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at the Chan­cellery in Ber­lin, Ger­many, Thurs­day.

Em­manuel Macron

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