NATO allies clash after Macron says alliance experiencing ‘brain death’

French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a press conference on the second day of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Brussels, Belgium. (Reuters)
Updated 08 November 2019

NATO allies clash after Macron says alliance experiencing ‘brain death’

  • Macron decried a lack of coordination between Europe and the US and lamented recent unilateral action in Syria by Turkey, a key member of NATO
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the 70-year-old military alliance as ‘indispensible’ and said Macron’s ‘sweeping judgments’ were not ‘necessary’

PARIS: NATO partners argued Thursday over the alliance’s worth after French President Emmanuel Macron said it was undergoing “brain death,” prompting a fierce defense of the bloc from Germany and the US while drawing praise from non-member Russia.
“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Macron told The Economist magazine in an interview published Thursday, ahead of a NATO summit next month.
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the 70-year-old military alliance as “indispensible” and said Macron’s “sweeping judgments” were not “necessary.”
Addressing journalists by Merkel’s side, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned that a weakened transatlantic alliance could “divide Europe,” while the US Secretary of State, also in Germany, insisted NATO was “important, critical.”
In the interview, Macron decried a lack of coordination between Europe and the US and lamented recent unilateral action in Syria by Turkey, a key member of the 70-year-old military alliance.
“You have no coordination whatsoever of strategic decision-making between the United States and its NATO allies. None,” he said.
“You have an uncoordinated aggressive action by another NATO ally, Turkey, in an area where our interests are at stake,” Macron added according to an English transcript released by The Economist.
After talks with Stoltenberg in Berlin, Merkel said Macron “used drastic words, that is not my view of cooperation in NATO.”
She added: “I don’t think that such sweeping judgments are necessary, even if we have problems and need to pull together,” while insisting that “the transatlantic partnership is indispensible for us.”
Stoltenberg said any attempt to distance Europe from North America “risks not only to weaken the Alliance, the transatlantic bond, but also to divide Europe.”
In a recent setback for the alliance, a Turkish military operation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria was staunchly opposed by fellow members like France, but made possible by a withdrawal of US forces ordered by President Donald Trump.
For Macron, “strategically and politically, we need to recognize that we have a problem.”
“We should reassess the reality of what NATO is in light of the commitment of the United States,” he warned, adding that: “In my opinion, Europe has the capacity to defend itself.”
Stoltenberg said he welcomed efforts to strengthen European defense, “but European unity cannot replace transatlantic unity. We need to stand together.”
Pompeo, on a visit to the German city of Leipzig as part of anniversary events for the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, agreed.
“I think NATO remains an important, critical, perhaps historically one of the most critical strategic partnerships in all of recorded history,” he told journalists.
Macron said it was crucial to seek rapprochement with Moscow, which regards NATO and its expansion into ex-Communist bloc states with huge suspicion given that the alliance was set up to counter the USSR.
“We need to reopen a strategic dialogue, without being naive and which will take time, with Russia,” said Macron, who wants to broker an end to the conflict in Ukraine and has courted President Vladimir Putin as a partner.
He said NATO did not reexamine its role after the collapse of the Soviet Union and “the unarticulated assumption is that the enemy is still Russia.”
And for all the anti-Western bombast from the Kremlin, Putin would find his long-term strategic options limited to “a partnership project with Europe,” the president said.
“If we want to build peace in Europe, to rebuild European strategic autonomy, we need to reconsider our position with Russia,” he insisted.
From Moscow, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hailed Macron’s “brain death” observation as “golden words... a precise definition of the current state of NATO.”
The French president, seen by many analysts as Europe’s most prominent leader amid Brexit and Merkel’s looming exit in 2021, has sought to stand tall on the foreign policy stage and to implement a vision of reforming Europe.
But he said the European Union was on “the edge of a precipice.”
“Europe has forgotten that it is a community, by increasingly thinking of itself as a market...,” said Macron, who recently blocked expanding the EU to include North Macedonia and Albania.
He also said he wanted European nations to break a “taboo” against using deficits to stimulate growth and investment.
Macron said the world was in turmoil, with a risk of the US and China becoming the sole global powers, and authoritarian regimes emerging in Europe’s own backyard.
“All this has led to the exceptional fragility of Europe which, if it can’t think of itself as a global power, will disappear, because it will take a hard knock,” he said.


China deploys army medics to overwhelmed virus epicenter

Updated 44 sec ago

China deploys army medics to overwhelmed virus epicenter

WUHAN, China: The Chinese army deployed medical specialists Saturday to the epicenter of a spiralling viral outbreak that has already killed 41 people and spread around the world, as millions spent their normally festive Lunar New Year holiday under lockdown.
The country’s most important celebration has been all-but canceled for people in a dozen cities who have been ordered to hunker down.
On Saturday, when they should have been celebrating, citizens of Wuhan stood in line at a pharmacy to buy masks from employees in full-body protective suits and surgical gloves.
China has launched a massive quarantine effort across much of Hubei province, affecting more than 40 million people.
On the eastern outskirts of Wuhan — Hubei’s capital and the original source of the previously unknown 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) — police manning a roadblock turned away a handful of vehicles trying to escape the city.
“Nobody can leave,” an officer told AFP.
But the respiratory contagion continues to spread.
The nationwide death toll has now jumped to 41, the government said Saturday, after 15 more people died in Wuhan.
Confirmed cases of infection nationwide also surged, to 1,287, up from 830 reported 24 hours earlier. Most of the deaths and overall cases have been in Hubei.
In a dramatic escalation of the central government’s involvement, China deployed 450 military medical staff to Wuhan, state media said.
The medics, who arrived on military aircraft late Friday, include doctors with experience combating SARS or Ebola, and will be dispatched to hospitals that are reportedly short on beds due to a crush of infected patients and worried locals.

“Everyone is just trying to protect themselves,” said a man in a surgical mask at a store where customers were stocking up on protective gear.
But the man, who declined to give his name, expressed confidence in Chinese authorities.
“The government is in control of this. It’s not a problem.”
The virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003 and spread to a number of other countries.
It has now been reported nationwide and in a dozen other countries, with France on Friday saying three cases had been confirmed there — the first known infections in Europe.
Australia and Malaysia on Saturday became the latest countries to confirm infections.
Beijing’s Forbidden City, Shanghai Disneyland, and a section of the Great Wall are among many attractions that have closed until the coast is clear.
“Usually we celebrate as a family. Now, because of the virus I’m not even visiting my parents,” said Wang Fang, a 49-year-old Wuhan native.
“It’ll be great just to be able to make it through (the outbreak).”


China’s aggressive response has won praise internationally, especially compared to its handling of SARS, when it was accused of a sluggish response and stonewalling the international community.
“China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus,” US President Donald Trump tweeted, hours after the United States confirmed its second case.
“The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency,” he added.
“It will all work out well.”
The virus has struck at a bad time for containment, with hundreds of millions of Chinese rushing home for the festival.
The timing could limit the economic impact, however, since much of China normally shuts down anyway during the week-long break.
The outbreak emerged in late December and has been traced to a Wuhan seafood and live animal market that sold a vast range of exotic animals and other bushmeat.
The World Health Organization on Thursday stopped short of declaring a global health emergency, which would have prompted greater international cooperation, including possible trade and travel restrictions.
Wuhan, however, now resembles a ghost town due to the clampdown, but hospitals bustled with worried patients being screened by staff wearing full-body protective suits.
Wuhan’s Guiyuan Temple is normally thronged for the Lunar New Year with tens of thousands of devotees paying respects to a deity associated with wealth.
But police manning a roadblock on the way to the site on Saturday turned away AFP journalists, saying the temple was closed to prevent the spread of the virus.
The scale of the crisis has prompted authorities to start construction on a new field hospital in Wuhan to deal with the outbreak, which state media said could be ready in 10 days.