President Macron may have exaggerated when he said that NATO is “brain-dead” because of American neglect. But only a little. And he had his reasons to do it.
Only a little, because no matter how reassuring State Department and Pentagon officials may sound at times, as to the future of the Alliance, the President’s own hostility towards it is undeniable. One does not —nor should— forget his reiterated …revelations that NATO is “obsolete” and “irrelevant”, or that big countries like Russia deserve large spheres of influence or ―even worse―, that Baltic states are “aggressive” and it would be “stupid” to risk a war for their sake. Furthermore, the fascination which various thuggish autocrats seem to exert on the holder of the office of the leader of the Free World, is unsettling, to say the least.
As to President Macron’s reasons to utter —with some Gallic exuberance―, what many are tacictly thinking, they are, to a certain extent, idiosyncratic and relating to traditional French defiant attitude to NATO and the US. But, first and foremost, they have to do with the urge of this occupant of the Élysée Palace to do both: forward the cause of a more autonomous European defense structure ―centered on EU membership― and downgrade British influence on European defense policy after the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.
The French President’s ambition to promote a new concept of European defense is very laudable indeed. It is self-evident that as the appeal of a new version of isolationist populism is growing in the US, Europe must not depend, for its defense, on the whims of every new occupant of the White House ―much as one, still, hopefully estimates the present one to represent too weird a species, not expected —or feared—, to be often encountered.
All EU partners should respond positively to President Macron. Even those in Central and Eastern Europe who have until now displayed a remarkable affinity ―ideological, temperamental, aesthetic, verbal, etc.―, to President Trump. Even if, grown up under the Soviet yoke, they have developed political instincts which seem closer to President Putin’s, rather than to those of civilized European statement, even if their disruptive conduct vis a vis the European Union is, visibly or invisibly, subsidized and rewarded by the Kremlin, they must allow the natural and historically justified Russophobia of their nations to prevail and give their support to a pylon of European defense, collateral ―not alternative― to NATO. But even if this was to bear fruits ―not easy under any conditions, especially in terms of cost―, it would not be sufficient.
Since the end of the WW II, the “West”, the “Free World”, despite the particularities of its components, has been one entity. The Trans-Atlantic space has been and must remain inseparable. For this, however, the leadership of the United States has been and is still is indispensable.
Seen from this angle, President Trump’s own, personal conduct in the context of the Syrian/Kurdish issue was frightening. His special blend of ignorance, cynicism, stupid rhetoric, lack of decorum, absence of any sence of the rediculous*, and utter disregard for his country’s most vital strategic interests, honour and credibility, as well as, alas, his eagerness to please many another autocrat ―in this case Turkey’s―, was revolting.
But, as we said, President Macron may have exaggerated a little. NATO’s “Brain-death” may only be a near-death experience. Full recovery may still be possible. Much, if not all, depends on the result of the 2020 Presidential elections in the U.S. A second Trump term would be fatal indeed.
The “West”, the “Free World” are real, existing, entities in more than one sense: ideological, cultural, geopolitical, geostrategic. But they need their natural leader, and this can only be the U.S., especially if the enemy is Mr Putin’s Russia. Europeans must, under any circumstances, do their utmost to upgrade their defense. It will take time though — and not so easy to attain degree of political coordination and willingness to assume the inevitable financial burden.
Thus, we must all keep our fingers crossed and hope for American voters to decide, this time, not to make America “great again” —because America is great—, but rather America’s leadership credible and respectable again…
* He said, the Kurds “were not with us in Normandy”(!) as if the Turks were!…