Europe: Is it time to look beyond NATO?
Emmanuel Macron believes that “America is cutting Europe loose,” said The Economist (U.K.). Although the French president “has worked tirelessly to keep good relations with U.S. President Donald Trump,” he says that for the first time America has a president who “does not share our idea of the European project.” Europe has not yet accepted this new reality. Macron says that NATO, which Trump has frequently attacked as a vehicle for European freeloading, is suffering from “brain death.” He notes that coordination in the alliance is collapsing. Trump didn’t notify other NATO leaders before he abandoned America’s Syrian Kurdish allies—a decision that allowed NATO member Turkey to invade Syria, threatening the West’s anti-ISIS campaign. At this point, Macron says, he can’t be sure that an attack on one NATO nation would trigger a united response. The French president says Europe must “regain military sovereignty” by developing its own defensive force. At the same time, he wants to reach out to Russia and draw it into a strategic partnership as Europe’s neighbor. These ideas are bound to unsettle his NATO partners—but they should hear him out.
Warning lights in Central Europe should be “blinking red,” said Maciej Czarnecki in Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland). While “nobody in Paris will say it aloud,” Macron’s desire for rapprochement with Moscow “stems largely from France’s close economic ties” with Russia, particularly investments in Russian natural gas by French energy giant Total. Macron claims to believe that Moscow will see partnering with Europe as more beneficial than undermining European democracies. But how can Macron think of building such an alliance while Russia still occupies chunks of Ukraine? And Macron’s idea of cooperating with Moscow on cybersecurity is beyond laughable. It’s like “inviting the Big Bad Wolf to guard Little Red Riding Hood.”
Macron’s reckless comments will only foment deeper division among NATO allies, said Marek Swierczynski in Polityka (Poland). Feeling insecure, countries that sit close to Russia—such as Poland and the Baltic nations—will draw closer to the U.S., not to some French-led European force that lacks the tanks, planes, and experience to defend them. The worst outcome will be if Trump reads Macron’s comments and endorses an alternative to NATO. I can see the tweet now: “Great! Go off on your own! WE SAVE BILLIONS!!!”
Yet Macron is right, said Christiane Hoffmann in Der Spiegel (Germany). He’s only echoing what German Chancellor Angela Merkel said two years ago, “that Europe could no longer rely on the U.S. as it had before.” That won’t change when Trump leaves office, because younger Americans don’t remember the Cold War and don’t understand “why Americans should die to protect Latvia.” Macron is right, too, that we should reach out to Russia and not treat it as Europe’s primary enemy: Most threats to Europe now come from instability in the Middle East, something NATO was not designed to counter. It’s time for Europe to “stop talking up NATO” and take control of our security. ■