French President Emmanuel Macron. Picture: AFP/LUDOVIC MARIN
French President Emmanuel Macron. Picture: AFP/LUDOVIC MARIN

Paris — French President Emmanuel Macron, in an interview with British weekly The Economist, warned fellow European countries that they could no longer rely on the US to defend Nato allies.

“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of Nato,” Macron was quoted as saying.

Asked whether he still believed in the article five “collective defence” stipulations of Nato’s founding treaty — under which an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies — Macron answered: “I don’t know.”

“[Nato] only works if the guarantor of last resort functions as such. I’d argue that we should re-assess the reality of what Nato is in the light of the commitment of the US,” Macron added.

His explosive comments came ahead of a Nato summit in Britain in December.

“You have no co-ordination whatsoever of strategic decision-making between the US and its Nato allies. None,” the French president charged.

The US is showing signs of “turning its back on us”, as demonstrated by President Donald Trump’s sudden decision in October to pull troops out of northeastern Syria without consulting the allies, the French leader said.

That move caught Nato’s leading European powers — France, Britain and Germany — by surprise and paved the way for Turkey, another Nato member, to launch a cross-border military operation targeting Syrian Kurdish forces.

At the time Macron decried Nato’s inability to react to Turkey’s offensive and said it was time Europe stopped acting like a junior ally of the US when it came to the Middle East. The European allies fear the US withdrawal from northeastern Syria will cause a security vacuum that can be exploited by Islamist militants.

France has long pressed for closer European defence co-operation but has faced resistance from Britain and others, which say the US remains key to Western defence, especially in the face of a more assertive Russia.

Trump has been strongly critical of European countries’ heavy reliance on the US for their defence and the failure of some, notably Germany, to hit a Nato target of spending 2% of national output on defence.

Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected Macron’s views, saying there was no need for such “sweeping judgments”.

Macron “used drastic words, that is not my view of cooperation in Nato”, said Merkel after talks with visiting chief of the transatlantic defence alliance Jens Stoltenberg.

“I don’t think that such sweeping judgments are necessary, even if we have problems and need to pull together,” she said.

Stoltenberg stressed that “Nato  is strong”, adding that the US and Europe were working “more together than we have done for decades”.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, speaking during a visit to the German city of Leipzig as part of anniversary events for the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, also dismissed Macron’s remarks.

“I think Nato remains an important, critical, perhaps historically one of the most critical strategic partnerships in all of recorded history,” he told a press conference. That was why it was “an absolute imperative that every country participate and join in and contribute appropriately to achieving that shared security mission”, he said, in a nod to Washington’s longstanding gripes about some member countries not paying their way.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas, speaking at the same press conference, also said he believed strongly in the military alliance “especially as we face ever more and ever greater global challenges”.

Reuters, AFP