Rift in the EU: Merkel, Stoltenberg Upset by Macron’s ‘Brain-Dead NATO’ Comment

ESSEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 06: German Chancellor and Chairwoman of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) Angela Merkel gives her central speech at the 29th federal congress of the CDU on December 6, 2016 in Essen, Germany. Approximately 1,000 CDU delegates are meeting to debate and vote on the party's course for next year following the recent announcement by Merkel that she will run for a fourth term as chancellor in federal elections scheduled for next September. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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BERLIN – NATO is alive and well and integral to Europe’s security, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg insisted, hitting back at French President Emmanuel Macron’s claim the alliance is “brain-dead”.

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Macron’s “drastic words” were “unnecessary, even if we do have problems and must get it together”, Merkel complained at a Berlin news conference on Thursday, insisting the “transatlantic partnership is indispensable for us”, RT reported.

Stoltenberg backed her up, declaring “European unity cannot replace transatlantic unity”, and warning that the EU cannot defend Europe without outside assistance. When the UK finally leaves the EU, some 80 percent of NATO’s defense will be funded by non-EU countries, he warned.

The general secretary praised Germany as “the heart of NATO” and lauded Merkel’s government for boosting its military spending. With most of NATO’s member countries failing to chip in their promised 2 percent of GDP, Germany announced on Thursday it hopes to hit that target for the first time by 2031 – seven years later than the date agreed upon by the alliance’s members in 2014.

That fervent defense of the military bloc’s image hardly addressed the problems brought up by Macron, though. Macron had urged France’s fellow NATO members to “reassess the reality of what NATO is in light of the commitment of the United States” in an interview with The Economist published on Thursday, suggesting “we are currently experiencing the brain-death of NATO” and lamenting that Europe was losing its grip on its “destiny”.

After the US’ decision to pull troops out of Syria without consulting the rest of NATO, Europe can hardly trust the Americans to defend it, Macron suggested. The situation in northern Syria is indeed puzzling for NATO: Turkey is a member of the alliance, but the US has threatened it and even briefly imposed sanctions over its actions on the Kurdish-controlled Turkish-Syrian border. The Pentagon even went so far as to ask NATO to sanction Ankara.

Stoltenberg attempted to smooth over the “differences of opinion and divisions among NATO allies”, suggesting Macron’s declaration the alliance is on its deathbed is just another issue – like climate change, or the war in Syria – on which countries might have conflicting approaches.

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