In an interview with The Economist, French President Emmanuel Macron commented on the United States’ commitment to NATO as well as the need for a higher degree of European military independence after President Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria and allow a Turkish invasion.
Emmanuel Macron has stated that NATO, the defensive transatlantic alliance formed in 1949, has entered a state of “brain death” after signs of waning commitment from the main sponsor, the USA — stating “it is turning its back to us”.
The comments come after President Trump’s failure to consult NATO allies before his decision to pull US troops out of Syria, following a declaration of victory against Daesh (ISIL).
The move took NATO’s European members by surprise, not only due to the lack of communication from their North American ally’s side but also because the move prompted Turkey (itself an important NATO member) to invade Syria’s northern frontier.
President Trump has frequently commented on the lack of commitment from the USA’s European allies to the transatlantic organisation, often calling member-states “delinquents” due their failure to meet the required 2% GDP in military spending.
However, this type of exclusion from military decisions in a region so close to Europe is a radical event.
International response has been mixed: Germany disagreed with Macron’s comments, with Chancellor Angela Merkel describing them as “drastic words”, while Russia, which sees American influence on the continent as a threat, agreed with the French President’s statements.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuter that NATO has in the past overcome differences such as the Suez Affair in 1956. President Macron stated that Europe should recognise its status as a geopolitical force and establish its global influence.
Macron believes that Europe could mediate between the mighty powers of China to the east and the USA to the west in order “to stop the entire world catching fire”.
France has often been vocal about the dependence that Europe has on America and is the main advocate for a common European army in order to limit reliance on their North American ally. According to Macron, Europe should unite in military, industrial and political matters in order to exert hard power, ideas which are often ignored in favour of a foreign policy focused solely on human rights and commerce.
The United States remains the main protector of Europe, with multiple military bases in EU countries and a number of nuclear warheads stored in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey.
The status of NATO remains a crucial talking point in modern Europe, with an increasingly anxious Russia and a growing Chinese superpower.