January 19, 2020

An Unhappy Marriage with NATO

“Is NATO headed for a crackup?

That could have been a headline from any of the last three years. Having run for president on an “America First” platform that included demands that allies pay the U.S. to defend them, and a rapprochement with Russia, the country against whom NATO’s collective defense is organized, Donald Trump predictably caused regular conniptions in European capitals.

But the latest shocks are coming from the other side of the Atlantic. Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron Trumpishly declared that NATO was experiencing “brain-death,” and called for Europe to achieve “strategic autonomy” from the United States. Though he came in for criticism from all sides — from his German allies, from American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — Macron doubled down yesterday at the NATO summit in London, repeating many of his prior criticisms and pointedly highlighting disagreement with the U.S.

It’s tempting to read Macron’s posturing as just that: an attempt to grab the spotlight, score some points off the deeply unpopular American president, and assert his own leadership within Europe at a time when Germany and Britain are adrift and his own approval ratings are rising off abysmal lows. But tensions within NATO have been building for decades, and Macron was criticized within Europe not so much for the content of his remarks but for his unwelcome candor.”

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