Emmanuel Macron made his comments before a Nato summit early next month in London. Photograph: Reuters
French president says in interview that Europe is in danger of disappearing geopolitically
Emmanuel Macron has said Nato is in the throes of “brain death” and European countries can no longer rely on the US to defend its allies, drawing criticism from both the US and Germany.
“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of Nato,” the French president told the Economist in an interview. “You have no coordination whatsoever of strategic decision-making between the United States and its Nato allies. None. You have an uncoordinated aggressive action by another Nato ally, Turkey, in an area where our interests are at stake.”
Asked whether he still believed in the “collective defence” stipulations of article five of Nato’s founding treaty, under which an attack against one member is considered an attack against all members, Macron answered: “I don’t know.”
Nato “only works if the guarantor of last resort functions as such. I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what Nato is in the light of the commitment of the United States,” he said.
Macron’s questioning of Nato’s effectiveness and suggestion European countries in the 29-member alliance should reassess their situation comes ahead of a key summit with leaders including Donald Trump in the UK early next month.
They were met with criticism from Germany and the US, the alliance’s largest member.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, stressed the importance of Nato on a visit to eastern Germany to mark 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“I think Nato remains an important, critical, perhaps historically one of the most critical, strategic partnerships in all of recorded history,” Pompeo told reporters in Leipzig.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, rejected Macron’s assessment, saying he had “used drastic words, that [were] not my view of cooperation in Nato”.
Speaking after talks in Berlin with the chief of the transatlantic defence alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, Merkel said: “I don’t think that such sweeping judgements are necessary, even if we have problems and need to pull together.”
Stoltenberg said Nato was strong, and that the US and Europe were working “more together than we have done for decades”.
Macron had said in his interview that Washington was showing signs of “turning its back on us”, as demonstrated by the US president’s sudden decision to pull troops out of north-eastern Syria last month without consulting his allies.
The move caught Nato’s leading European powers – Britain, France and Germany – by surprise and paved the way for Turkey to launch a cross-border military operation targeting Syrian Kurdish forces.
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.
He repeated his long-held belief the EU must develop a military force and shore up its ability to act as a political bloc with policies on technology, data and the climate emergency.
“Look at what is happening in the world,” he said. “Things that were unthinkable five years ago – to be wearing ourselves out over Brexit, to have Europe finding it so difficult to move forward, to have an American ally turning its back on us so quickly on strategic issues – nobody would have believed this possible.”
He said Europe was on “the edge of a precipice. If we don’t wake up … there’s a considerable risk that in the long run we will disappear geopolitically, or at least that we will no longer be in control of our destiny. I believe that very deeply.”