PARIS — NATO leaders must have a deep discussion about the future of the military alliance and how ties with Russia can be improved, French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday.
Ahead of a summit of NATO leaders in London next week, Macron held discussions with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Paris.
At a joint press conference, Macron posed a series of questions about NATO, an organization that he termed as “brain dead” just a few weeks ago, a charge that was criticized by others within the alliance.
“NATO is an organization of collective defense. Against what, against who is it defending itself? Who is our common enemy? What are our common topics? This question deserves clarifications.”
Macron said he was glad his recent comments have acted as a “wake-up call” and that it was “irresponsible” to just talk about financial and technical matters.
“A real alliance is action, decisions, not words. So, I want us to have a real dialogue among allies,” he insisted.
He voiced his regret that the two previous NATO summits were focusing “only on how to alleviate the financial cost for the United States.”
Macron said NATO really needs to focus on what it’s about, to resolve a series of questions, such as how to maintain peace in Europe, relations with Russia, the role of Turkey in NATO and who the alliance’s enemies might be.
Macron called for a return to dialogue with Russia that is “lucid, robust and demanding” in order to enhance confidence and security on the continent. NATO’s relations with Russia have arguable been at their frostiest since the end of the Cold War as a result Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
He added that the alliance needs to focus on the common enemy, which he said is neither Russia nor China, but extremist groups.
Ever since he arrived at the White House nearly three years ago, President Donald Trump has argued that NATO members should not expect the U.S. to shoulder the lion’s share of the alliance’s military costs in the future. The U.S. spends more on defense than all other 28 allies combined.
At the Dec. 3-4 summit in London, Trump is expected to repeat his demand that European nations and Canada increase their defense spending.
Despite the in-fighting, Stoltenberg played down the divisions and insisted that NATO was as relevant as it has ever been.
“In uncertain times we need strong multinational institutions like NATO,” he said.
“The paradox is that while questions are being asked about the strength of the trans-Atlantic bond, North America and Europe are doing more together than they have done for decades.”
Macron also lamented the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which the U.S. abandoned after insisting that Russia was violating the pact. The INF was a Cold War-era bilateral agreement between Washington and Moscow.
“To say that a treaty is over without having anything else in place,” he said. “Let’s be serious. We’re talking about Europe’s security.”
Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to the story.
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