This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that he stands by comments he made three weeks ago when he described NATO as “brain-dead,” and he defended his push for dialogue with Russia.
In a November 7 interview with the Economist magazine, Macron deplored a lack of strategic cooperation among NATO members, and pointed to what he saw as a waning commitment to the Western military alliance by the United States.
The assessment drew sharp criticism from allies, with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warning against undermining the transatlantic alliance.
“I totally stand by raising these ambiguities because I believe it was irresponsible of us to keep talking about financial and technical matters given the stakes we currently face,” Macron said after talks with Stoltenberg in Paris on November 28.
The meeting took place before NATO leaders meet outside London next week for its 70th anniversary, amid persistent tensions between Russia and the West over issues including the Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts and Moscow’s meddling into other countries’ elections.
NATO has also raised concerns regarding the implications of China’s increased presence and activity in the North Atlantic area.
“A wake-up call was necessary. I’m glad it was delivered, and I’m glad everyone now thinks we should rather think about our strategic goals,” Macron told a joint news conference with Stoltenberg.
“Is our enemy today Russia, as I sometimes hear? Is it China? Is it the goal of NATO to designate them as enemies? I don’t believe so. Our common enemy today is terrorism, which has hit each of our countries,” he added.
Stoltenberg said that “in uncertain times, we need strong multilateral institutions like NATO.”
He also praised France’s role in fighting Islamist terrorism in the Sahel region, which saw the death of 13 French soldiers in Mali this week.
Macron also took aim at NATO-member Turkey, saying its military offensive against Kurdish militia fighters in northern Syria “endangers the actions” of the coalition against the Islamic State extremist group — a coalition “of which NATO is a member.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu dismissed the French leader’s criticism and accused him of being a “sponsor of terrorism.”
Macron angered Ankara last month by hosting an official from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
On Russia, Macron also said that Paris had “absolutely not accepted” a proposal from Moscow to impose a moratorium on missile deployments in Europe, as suggested in leaks in the German press earlier this week.
“We considered that, as a basis for discussion, we shouldn’t just brush it off,” he said, adding that “this is the security of Europe we’re talking about.”
Russia has called on the United States and other countries to declare a moratorium on the deployment of short- and intermediate-range nuclear missiles on the continent — a proposal described as not “credible” by NATO.
The move followed the demise of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty earlier this year that banned Russia and the United States from deploying land-based, short- and intermediate-range nuclear weapons.
Acknowledging concerns among NATO allies about his overtures to Moscow, Macron said that “the absence of dialogue with Russia” hadn’t made Europe “any safer.”