French security experts worry about their President’s dismissal of NATO

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US, Germany and others aghast at Emmanuel Macron claim that the Alliance is becoming brain-dead.

NATO member countries and other candidates

Nov. 8.– For months, NATO officials have fretted that a summit of alliance leaders in London on December 3rd might be soured by an impolitic remark by Donald Trump. They didn’t count on Emmanuel Macron. In an interview with The Economist published on November 7th, the president of France declared that NATO was experiencing “brain death”. He cast doubt on Article Five, the alliance’s collective-defence clause, and said he was not sure whether America would show up to defend Europe in a crisis.

Mr Macron was saying no more than has been murmured in chancelleries and think-tanks for years, particularly since the election of Mr Trump, who has called NATO “obsolete” and chastised allies for failing to spend enough on defence. But Mr Macron’s willingness to say it out loud worries NATO.

On the same morning as Mr Macron’s bombshell landed, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, was giving a speech in Berlin. Though not intended as a riposte to the French president, it might as well have been. Mr Macron had boasted that the EU’s new defence schemes showed that “Europe has the capacity to defend itself”. Mr Stoltenberg welcomed those projects, but scoffed at the idea that they could substitute for America’s might, declaring: “The European Union cannot defend Europe.”

Mr Stoltenberg pointed out that once Britain left the bloc, 80% of NATO’s defence spending would come from non-EU allies. Germany would be left as the only EU member leading one of the alliance's four forward-deployed battlegroups in eastern Europe (France has sporadically contributed a handful of troops to the British-led deployment in Estonia). “European unity”, he concluded, “cannot replace transatlantic unity”.

Many countries in NATO agree ...

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