(Bloomberg) — U.S. President Donald Trump has turned his back on his European allies and undermined the 70-year-old North Atlantic Treaty Organization, creating an existential threat for America’s transatlantic partners, according to French President Emmanuel Macron.
“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Macron said in an interview with The Economist published on Thursday, also calling into question the bedrock principle of “collective defense” — that allies would come to one another’s aid. “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,” he said.
Last month, Trump withdrew U.S. forces from northeastern Syria, which critics have said gave Turkey a green light to attack American-allied Kurdish militias, risking a resurgence of the Islamic State and a slaughter of the Kurds. Turkey and the U.S., both members of NATO, didn’t consult with their alliance partners before acting, infuriating Macron.
Trump has pushed traditional allies away in pursing his “America First” agenda, calling the European Union a “foe,” which is “almost as bad as China, just smaller,” and flirting with the idea of leaving NATO if members didn’t contribute more money.
But his most recent actions corroborated Macron’s fears that the U.S. president wasn’t committed to NATO values and rules, and gave further impetus to the French leader’s push for Europe to assert its own autonomy. The American withdrawal left Europe dealing with the prospect of Islamic State veterans escaping from prisons and of ceding influence in the region to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
“You have no coordination of the United States’ strategic decision with NATO’s partners and we are witnessing an aggression led by another NATO partner, Turkey, in an area where our interests are at stake, without coordination,” Macron told the magazine. He called for a clarification of NATO’s strategic objectives while still supporting his idea of strengthening a European defense.
The situation in Syria, and Macron’s words, will be fodder for discussion when leaders of NATO members meet next month near London for the annual reunion, which will also celebrate the alliance’s 70 years of existence.
Read More: Syria Shows Risks of U.S. Withdrawal for Europe: Irrelevance
Separately, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer echoed Macron’s comments, saying that U.S. interest in protecting the global order was “dwindling” and that Europe needed to do more for its own defense.
“A country of our size and economic and technical might, a nation in our geopolitical situation and with our global interests, cannot simply stand on the sidelines and look on,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said. “We have to make our own proposals, develop ideas, suggest options.”
Macron has repeatedly called EU allies to accelerate moves toward “strategic autonomy” that would allow Europe to end its overwhelming military dependence on the U.S., and remake the post-World War II and post-Cold War security architecture.
The French president had already used tough words and images to pressure European members, for example when in 2018 he called for the creation of a “European Army.” Trump opposed any such plan, saying it was “very insulting,” and any move that would encroach on NATO’s competency would face considerable challenges with most alliance members.
“The European defense union will always be oriented toward a cooperation with NATO, which will remain the anchor of Europe’s security,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Thursday at Germany’s military university in Munich. “We want complementarity, not competition.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg disagreed that the alliance was obsolete.
“We do work, we modernize more and we invest more than we did for decades,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Thursday. “The U.S. is realizing that NATO is important to them.”
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