The interview which President Macron gave to The Economist has certainly triggered reactions, and comments.
We have published two of our own, and in this article are highlighting some further detailed reactions to the article which provide inputs to the next phase of Western development or what we have called shaping the Second Creation of the West.
Don’t Lead Europe by Triggering Its Fears
In a thoughtful piece by Jan Techau, senior fellow and director of the Europe Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), the author warned of the dangers of how Macron has phrased his criticisms which, in turn, shape his solutions.
Despite a notable military re-investment in Europe that began under president Barack Obama and continues under Donald Trump, this president has destroyed almost all trust in America’s role as defender and stabiliser of Europe.
The result is a nervousness and uncertainty that eats like cancer into European stability.
External actors like China and Russia see an opening and invest heavily in splitting up Europe and playing divide and rule. Some countries hope for the best and stay passive, such as Germany.
Others, such as Poland and the Baltic states seek bilateral re-assurance with an uninterested commander-in-chief in the White House. And yet others believe that their moment has come and that some strategic dominance can be achieved in a political market hungry for leadership.
This latter role currently falls to France under president Emmanuel Macron who has announced that his country would lead Europe towards a place of eminence in the emerging world order. To many, however, this ambition smacks of old Gaullism with a new rationale.
Confidence in France’s ability to pull it off is extremely limited.
Macron believes that things in Europe are too ossified, that patience will lead to nothing and that disruption is needed to make headway on big goals such as strategic autonomy and European sovereignty.
Even though he might be right on the disruption part, he might have miscalculated on substance.
First, it appears impossible to build a new security architecture that includes a Russia governed by Vladimir Putin. Too brutal have Moscow’s tactics been in its ‘near abroad’ been, too insidious are the Kremlin’s attempt to distort the truth and political process in Europe (including in France).
Second, if Macron believes that disruption would bring Europeans closer together, he is almost certainly wrong.
In Europe’s low-trust political environment, the instincts of nations under duress have traditionally not been ‘let’s join forces’ but ‘everyone for himself’. Integration is not a European instinct, it is an acquired taste.
Take America out of Europe and there are many Europeans who fear only one thing more than a Europe dominated by Germany, and that is a Europe dominated by France.
What this leads to is the old European game: strong leadership by a European power leads to counterbalancing, not bandwagoning. Distrust seeps into the system, malevolent external players feel further emboldened, and the narcissism of small differences becomes the order of the day again.
Political elites in Berlin have stayed largely silent so far, not because of their coveted attitude of restraint but because they are stunned.
They loved to believe that Macron was a genuine European integrationist in the mould of general German pro-European-ness. Now they fear he is an emboldened Gaullist willing to sell out the European spirit at the first convenient America-free moment.
Large parts of the strategic community still console themselves by hoping that, ultimately, he is doing all of this for Europe’s greater good and in the name of new European ambition.
But down deep they fear that this could lead to selling out to Russia, throwing central and eastern Europe under bus, alienating Poland and large parts of Europe’s north, and going to bed with Trump.
Germany’s problem is that it is not at all in the position to complain about Macron’s leadership. So few ideas and so little action have come from Berlin that blaming others for leadership sounds stale, to say the least.
Macron should replace the quasi-Trumpian faith in creating turmoil to cure ills with ideas along the line of servant leadership: a forceful offer to fellow Europeans to put French power and French ambition in service of the greater European gain.
Macron could learn a trick or two from the way America led Europe when it was still interested in doing so: the pesky Europeans cannot be lead by triggering their fears.
What is needed is sober strategic assessment, generous offers, tough love, and an attitude that does not play the glory of the nation against the need of the whole continent.
And of course it would help greatly if Berlin finally woke up.
Germany Breaks Silence
Well Germany did brake its silence.
According to an article by Steven Erlanger published in The New York Times on November 23, 2019:
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, was uncharacteristically furious. At a dinner to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, she huddled with President Emmanuel Macron of France, who had just given an interview in which he cited the “brain death” of NATO and wondered whether its commitment to collective defense still held.
Mr. Macron had also been the sole leader to veto the start of lengthy membership talks for North Macedonia to join the European Union, despite Skopje’s having done everything Brussels had asked of it, including changing the country’s name.
“I understand your desire for disruptive politics,” Ms. Merkel said, according to a person who was there. “But I’m tired of picking up the pieces. Over and over, I have to glue together the cups you have broken so that we can then sit down and have a cup of tea together.”
Mr. Macron defended himself, saying that he could not simply go to a NATO meeting in London in early December and pretend that the United States and Turkey had behaved in the collective interest in Syria.
“I cannot sit there and act like nothing has happened,” he said.
European Reactions to Macron Taking NATO to the Woodshed
According to an article published November 25, 2019 in The Express, Chancellor Merkel included Macron in the kind of reaction she has had historically for President Trump.
In the emotive outburst, indicative of the Franco-German power struggle at the heart of the EU, Angela Merkel raged at Emmanuel Macron and said: “I understand your desire for disruptive politics, but I’m tired of picking up the pieces.
“Over and over, I have to glue together the cups you have broken so that we can then sit down and have a cup of tea together.”
“Earlier this month, the French President launched another broadside towards his global allies, warning a lack of leadership is causing the “brain death” of the NATO military alliance, questioning whether its commitment to collective defence still existed….
“Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had also lashed out at Mr Macron when he warned any move to to question the collective defence guarantee included in the NATO treaty were a threat to the future of the European Union and the military alliance.
“Speaking to The Financial Times earlier this month, he said the French President’s attack on NATO was “dangerous”.
“Mr Morawiecki insisted NATO is “the most important alliance in the world when it comes to preserving freedom and peace”.
“He said: “I think President Macron’s doubts about NATO’s commitment to mutual defence can make other allies wonder if perhaps it is France that has concerns about sticking to it. I hope that we can still count on France fulfilling its obligations.
“France is spending below two per cent of GDP on defence. I think it’s worth asking why certain aspects of NATO do not look as we wish.
“It’s not for the lack of US commitment to the alliance, but rather the lack of reciprocity on the part of some European allies.”
The Sec Gen of NATO Responds
In a November 7, 2019 speech, the Sec Gen of NATO took up Macron’s challenge.
The bond between Europe and North America made it possible to reintegrate Germany into the European and international community, to end the Cold War without a shot being fired, and to create the conditions for European integration.
The reunification of Germany and Europe would have been impossible without the United States’ security guarantee. And further European integration was made possible under the umbrella of security provided by NATO. For the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, NATO membership was the first step to integration in the Euro-Atlantic family. A driver of democracy and reform. A step to greater prosperity. And a precursor to EU membership. NATO and the European Union are two sides of the same coin. Indispensable partners for peace and prosperity in Europe.
Any attempt to distance Europe from North America will not only weaken the trans-Atlantic Alliance—it is also risking dividing Europe itself.
European unity cannot replace trans-Atlantic unity. I strongly welcome efforts to strengthen European defense, which can enhance capabilities and burden-sharing within NATO. But the European Union cannot defend Europe.
This is partly about military might. After Brexit, 80 percent of NATO’s defense expenditure will come from non-EU allies. And Germany will be the only EU member leading one of NATO’s battlegroups in the east of the alliance.
It is also about geography. From Norway in the north to Turkey in the south and the U.S., Canada and the U.K. in the West. All are key to keeping Europe safe.
I say all of this knowing that many of you may be thinking about the disagreements, differences, and divisions among NATO allies over trade, energy, climate change, Iran, and most recently over the situation in northeast Syria. We have had serious differences before—from the Suez Crisis in 1956 to the Iraq War in 2003. But at the end of the day, we have always been able to unite around our core task: to protect and defend each other.
NATO is the only platform where allies from Europe and North America sit down on a daily basis to discuss difficult issues affecting our shared security and to keep our almost 1 billion citizens safe.
Consensus is not always easy. I know that after chairing the North Atlantic Council for some years. But our unity is essential for our shared security. And it is in the national interest of each and every one of us to stay united. It is good for North America. And good for Europe.
Therefore, we all have a responsibility to overcome our differences today, as we have done in the past. Because we are faced with a more unpredictable world. And in uncertain times we need to stand together. We need strong multilateral institutions like NATO.
A more assertive Russia is a key driver for the increased unpredictability we are facing. Its illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time after World War II one country seized another’s territory in Europe. North America and Europe have responded in a united and firm way. NATO has implemented the largest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War. And the European Union has stood firm in its use of economic sanctions, demonstrating to Russia the consequences of violating international law and showing the strength of the trans-Atlantic bond.
And Stoltenberg is visiting Paris to discuss with President Macron.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday (Nov 19) that he will visit Paris next week to seek an explanation from Emmanuel Macron after the French president dismissed the alliance as “brain dead”.
Stoltenberg mounted a vigorous defence of NATO ahead of a meeting of alliance foreign ministers, saying it was doing more than ever and warning against undermining it.
The diplomatic shockwaves from Macron’s forthright interview with The Economist continue to rattle NATO just weeks before a summit in London meant as a 70th birthday celebration for the alliance.
“I will go to Paris next week and there I intend to discuss these issues with President Macron — I think that’s the best way to address any differences, to sit down and discuss them and to fully understand the messages and the motivations,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
“My message is that NATO is adapting, NATO is agile, NATO is responding.”
And Germany Reinforces Stoltenberg But Addresses Macron’s Concerns
And in an article by David Herszenhorn, the German government suggests a way ahead.
An array of German officials had pushed back on Macron, including Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, who is a former German defense minister, also spoke out in support of NATO, as did the U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas arrived at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday with a plan to ease the tensions by appointing the expert group, though he was careful to reiterate Germany’s position that NATO is indispensable or European security. Still, he conceded in a statement ahead of the ministerial: “NATO has undergone difficult stress tests recently.”
At a news conference after Wednesday’s meetings, Stoltenberg said the proposal was well-received by allies and would be given further consideration ahead of a leaders’ summit in London early next month.
“First of all, allies expressed very strong support to NATO and to the importance of transatlantic unity,” Stoltenberg said. “The proposal from Minister Heiko Maas received support from many allies and, I think, it has value and we will now look into it as we prepare for the upcoming leaders’ meeting and then we will decide what to do.”
Stoltenberg, who had spent much of the last two years safeguarding the alliance amid fierce criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump over insufficient military spending by European allies, made a predictably strong defense of the alliance against Macron’s assertions, though he did not address Macron personally other than to say he planned to visit Paris next week.
“We are actually the only platform where North America and Europe sits together, decides together and do things together” on important security issues, he said.
Still, Stoltenberg said he was very open to the Maas proposal. “Again, I think it has value to look into how we can further strengthen NATO and the transatlantic bond. We need to look into this as we prepare for the upcoming leaders’ meeting and then we will see what will be the final conclusions,” he said at the news conference.
The featured photos shows Angela Merkel lashed out at Emmaneul Macron following comments from the French President (Image: GETTY / REUTERS)
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