France’s Macron says NATO experiencing ‘brain death’

France’s Macron says NATO experiencing ‘brain death’

French president laments lack of coordination between Europe and the United States, and unilateral actions in Syria by key member Turkey

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 6, 2019. (JASON LEE / POOL / AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 6, 2019. (JASON LEE / POOL / AFP)

PARIS (AFP) — French President Emmanuel Macron said he believes NATO is undergoing “brain death,” lamenting a lack of coordination between Europe and the United States and unilateral actions in Syria by key member Turkey, in an interview published Thursday.

“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Macron told The Economist magazine 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,” he added, according to an English transcript released by The Economist.

Macron’s comments questioning the effectiveness of NATO threaten to send shock waves through the alliance ahead of a summit meeting Britain next month.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives a speech at the Körber Global Leaders Dialogue event organized by the Koerber Foundation on November 7, 2019 in Berlin. (Kay Nietfeld / dpa / AFP)

NATO has already been hit by Turkey’s latest military operation against Kurdish militia in northern Syria — which was staunchly opposed by fellow members like France — and President Donald Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for the organisation.

“There has been no NATO planning, nor any coordination. There hasn’t even been any NATO deconfliction,” Macron said.

And while NATO works well in communicating between armies and commanding operations, “strategically and politically, we need to recognize that we have a problem,” he said.

“We should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States,” he warned, adding that “In my opinion, Europe has the capacity to defend itself.”

Macron argued that Europe could do this if “it accelerates the development of European defense.”

He expressed frustration that the United States under Trump had effectively allowed Turkey to go ahead with its operation in Syria by pulling back American forces.

“NATO as a system doesn’t regulate its members,” he said.

“So as soon as you have a member who feels they have a right to head off on their own, granted by the USA, they do it,” he said.

“It’s not in our interest” to push Turkey out of NATO “but perhaps to reconsider what NATO is.”

The French president, seen by analysts as Europe’s most prominent leader amid Brexit and the looming exit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2021, has sought to stand tall on the foreign policy stage and implement a vision of reforming Europe.

But he said Europe had been brought “to the edge of a precipice” by reducing the political scope of the European Union project since the mid-1990s.

“Europe has forgotten that it is a community, by increasingly thinking of itself as a market, with expansion as its end purpose,” said Macron, who recently blocked expanding the EU further to include two more Balkan states.

Macron said it was a time of turmoil with Europe losing track of history, the US aligning more closely with China and authoritarian powers emerging in its neighborhood.

“All this has led to the exceptional fragility of Europe which, if it can’t think of itself as a global power, will disappear, because it will take a hard knock,” he said.

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