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There are occasions when the French President, Emmanuel Macron, appears to overstep himself and say or do certain things that give cause for concern. His attachment to big business, the violent manner in which he attempted to quell the Gilet Jaune protests, are just two examples.
He’s not a man to hold back in his beliefs on how the country should be governed, and such forthrightness can create frictions, not just within France, but in the E.U. as a whole. Once in a while, though, he is brave enough to speak out and say what others are perhaps too reticent, or scared, to admit.
This week, in an interview with the Economist, he didn’t mince words when asked about the future of NATO:
EMMANUEL MACRON, the French president, has warned European countries that they can no longer rely on America to defend NATO allies. “What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Mr Macron declares in a blunt interview with The Economist. Europe stands on “the edge of a precipice”, he says, and needs to start thinking of itself strategically as a geopolitical power; otherwise we will “no longer be in control of our destiny.”
He’s absolutely right in what he says. Donald Trump should leave no-one in Europe in any doubt that he will operate unilaterally, without consulting NATO, and have no compunction about ordering US military actions even when detrimental to the interests of other NATO allies.
Of course, it’s always possible that the 2020 presidential elections in America will see the end of the Trump dynasty and a return to more normal relations, but the election of a populist president in the United States has had repercussions around the world, emboldening other ‘populist’ leaders to follow Trump’s lead. The world is in an unstable state, both environmentally and politically, and Europe’s long-time reliance on America to defend its borders has been seriously shaken in the last three years.
He was asked whether he believed in the effectiveness of Article Five, the idea that if one NATO member is attacked all would come to its aid, which many analysts think underpins the alliance’s deterrent effect. “I don’t know,” he replies, “but what will Article Five mean tomorrow?”
NATO, Mr Macron says, “only works if the guarantor of last resort functions as such. I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States.” And America, in his view, shows signs of “turning its back on us,” as it demonstrated starkly with its unexpected troop withdrawal from north-eastern Syria last month, forsaking its Kurdish allies.
The cold-blooded, detached, manner in which Trump sold the Kurds down the river to Turkey’s Erdogan is typical of the man. He would probably have sold his grandmother if there’d been a profit in it. The very fact that a nation like the United States could elect a narcissistic sociopath to the office of ‘Leader of the Free World’ speaks volumes about the political earthquakes rocking the world today.
Europe, with or without the United Kingdom, needs to look to its own security. Trump is the living proof that America can never again be totally trusted. The very fabric of that nation is being rent apart by Christian Fundamentalists, White Supremacists, racism, gun-toting private armies, and a return to tribalism that will likely result in confrontations leading to serious civil unrest.
Europe needs to increase its military forces. Hopefully, NATO will survive the Trump Administration, but even if it does Europe needs to play a greater role in defending the peace of the world against those populist leaders hellbent on extending their power into other regions.
There can be little doubt that Russia’s Vladimir Putin would dearly love to get his hands on those eastern European states that used to be a part of the Soviet Union. China and Russia are presently cooperating militarily. Any move by Putin to retake control of eastern Europe would normally instigate blocking moves by NATO, led by the Americans, but while Trump remains in power the question has to be asked: would he move against Putin, or, as has happened in Ukraine, stand back and allow it to happen?
If there’s one thing U.S. President Donald Trump has taught us all…
…it’s that NATO countries can no longer rely on an unstable America to do it for them.