The article looks into the effect French President Emmanuel Macron's jaw-dropping comment that NATO is experiencing a brain death has produced on a vast number of politicians, expert community and the general public. It also explores the possibilities for the European Union to develop its own security and defense capable of resisting and countering external threats all alone. Diverging interests in the foreign policies of the United States and its European allies as well as mutual unwillingness to narrow the gap is causing estrangement between the strategic partners. It also encourages some EU leaders to assume a greater role in the international arena and launch initiatives to find a way out of the deadlock.

Анотація наукової статті по політологічних наук, автор наукової роботи - Галахова Динара Вікторівна

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  • політологічні науки

  • Рік видавництва: 2019


    Міжнародні відносини та суспільство



    ?УДК 327


    Редактор відділу англомовних новин Міжнародного інформаційного агентства «Росія сьогодні», Москва.

    Галахова Динара Вікторівна galakhova. dinara @ gmail com

    Annotation. The article looks into the effect French President Emmanuel Macron's jaw-dropping comment that NATO is experiencing a brain death has produced on a vast number of politicians, expert community and the general public. It also explores the possibilities for the European Union to develop its own security and defense capable of resisting and countering external threats all alone. Diverging interests in the foreign policies of the United States and its European allies as well as mutual unwillingness to narrow the gap is causing estrangement between the strategic partners. It also encourages some EU leaders to assume a greater role in the international arena and launch initiatives to find a way out of the deadlock.

    Keywords: NATO, European security, defense, France, Turkey, Operation Peace Spring, Russia.

    According to Joseph Nye, by the beginning of the twenty-first century, between the USA and the EU appeared a few questions, and he highlights the 6 most important ones. First of all, most of the European democracies began to concentrate on their domestic problems, while international disputes and foreign affairs were not that important to them. That was a logical transition because.

    French President Emmanuel Macron's criticism of NATO made headlines in November, prompting his partners and rivals, politicians and analysts inside Europe and beyond its borders to brood over his message, broadly seeing it as a wake-up call to shape a fundamentally new security architecture on the European continent.

    In an explosive interview with The Economist weekly issued on November 7, Macron said that it was time for Europe to "wake up" to the fact that the United States was no longer leading NATO. Moreover, he described what the military alliance was experiencing as a "brain death." [1]

    This catchy phrase has drawn a storm of criticism from his opponents and opened up a new debate on the future of the once-mighty bloc.

    The French leader told EU allies that they could no longer rely on Washington after it had turned its back on them and withdrew from northern Syria, where an international coalition is fighting radical jihadists.

    Macron warned that Europe stood on the brink of "a precipice" and should start seeing itself as a geopolitical power if it wanted to remain the master of its own fate. Asked whether he believed in NATO's Article 5, in which allies agreed that an attack on one country would be met with collective resistance, Macron replied indefinitely [2].

    Macron also said it was inconceivable that Russia was still viewed as NATO's enemy long after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, adding that the alliance failed to reinvent itself as a geopolitical project in the 1990s after its initial enemy faded away [3].


    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg rushed to refute Macron's claim that the bloc was experiencing a "brain death" and that Europe should rely on itself.

    "NATO is strong, and the United States, North America and Europe, we do more together than we have done for a decade. We have implemented the strongest enforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War," he said at a press briefing with the German chancellor on November 7 [4].

    He sided with Angela Merkel who described Macron's assessment of the alliance as very harsh.

    "The French president has found a rather drastic word to express his views. This is not how I see the state of cooperation within NATO. I do not think such a sweeping judgment is appropriate, although obviously, we grapple with the issues. But NATO is in our interest, "Merkel said at a press conference with the NATO chief [5].

    Stoltenberg argued that, far from abandoning Europe, the US was increasing its presence there with more troops, military drills and investment in infrastructural projects. He also cautioned Europe against trying to act independently and on its own risk.

    "Any attempt to distance Europe from North America risks not only to weaken the trans-Atlantic bond but also to divide Europe. We have to stand together. I welcome European unity ... but European unity can not replace trans-Atlantic unity," he said [6].

    NATO expects Germany to continue fulfilling its obligations and raise its military budget, Stoltenberg, who was in the middle of a four-day visit to Berlin at the time, emphasized.

    "I welcome Germany's plan to raise its defense budget and welcome the fact you have already started to do so. I count on Germany to keep up the momentum and stand by its commitments, because this is about investing in our security, preserving peace and preventing conflict, "Stoltenberg said after having a meeting with Merkel in Berlin [7].

    He also stated that a strong NATO was indispensable for peace and security in Europe, which requires further investments in making the alliance ready to operate in an unpredictable world.

    The United States also could not but argue with the French president's opinion regarding NATO's health condition.

    "We firmly disagree with President Macron's assessment of NATO," the US permanent representative to the alliance, Kay Bailey Hutchison, told reporters on November 19 [8].


    The alliance has been going through tough times ever since US President Donald Trump shocked his NATO allies by beginning to pull troops out of northern

    Syria in October. This was seen as a green light for an incursion by Turkey, another NATO member.

    Macron did not seem to be in the least alarmed by a slew of criticism of his diagnosis for NATO, on the contrary, he defended his stance and even clarified the


    meaning of his remarks during a meeting with the NATO chief on November 28. He said that the questions he had asked were open questions that were to be dealt with.

    "NATO is an organization of collective defense, but against what? ... Who is our common enemy? What is our common agenda? This question needs clarifications. And you see, this is an eminently strategic question. Is Russia our enemy today, as I sometimes hear? Or is it China? Is it the Atlantic Alliance's true purpose to brand them as enemies? I do not think so, "he pointed out [9].

    Terrorism, which has struck virtually all of the countries across the globe, could be regarded as a common enemy, Macron said, reiterating his belief that a true alliance means actions, decisions and not just words.

    His Turkish counterparts responded in nothing but anger and bile to what they percewed as Macron's "sick and shallow understanding" [10] of Turkish operation against Kurdish militia in Syria.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told parliament on November 28 that the French president's objections to Operation Peace Spring were akin to supporting terrorism [11].

    Speaking at Istanbul's Marmara University the following day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan crossed the line and sharply escalated tensions by suggesting that Macron should check his own head before diagnosing NATO with irreversible brain damage [12].

    Additionally, Turkey's communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said a day after Macron stood by his assertion, that NATO was not to blame for "poor policy choices and increasing strategic irrelevance" [13] of Paris within the organization. He also called on the NATO members to try to understand Turkey's national security concerns.

    Erdogan's rhetorical brinkmanship did not go unanswered and the French government summoned Turkish Ambassador in Paris Ismail Hakki Musa to seek explanations after what it regarded as "insults" by the Turkish leader [14]. Macron, in his turn, lashes out at Turkey's Syria intervention, which, he maintains, was presented to its NATO allies as a fait accompli without prior consultations and in absence of coordinated decision.


    In his landmark interview, Macron stated that Europe should revise its relations with Russia, "without being the slightest bit naive," if "we want to build peace" on the continent. According to the French leader, the United States is "really tough" with Moscow due to "their administrative, political and historic superego" [15].

    Commenting on Macron's NATO performance evaluation, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that from its very inception, NATO was a tool of confrontation and even aggression; therefore Russia is not inclined to exaggerate the alliance's role in ensuring stability and security.

    "It is not up to us to decide whether NATO is dead or alive, and which of its body parts have lapsed into a coma. We are not forensic pathologists," Peskov told reporters [16].

    He also recalled that Russia-NATO cooperation had been reduced to the level of experts 'not at Moscow's initiative.

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova praised Macron as, according to her, he managed to provide an accurate description of the real state of affairs in the bloc.

    "Golden words. True and reflecting the essence. A precise definition of the current condition of NATO. But there is one 4but5 (although there are much more). How exactly can Europe control its destiny?" the diplomat wrote on Facebook, reacting to Macron's caustic observation [17].

    Commenting on the French leader's calls for closer cooperation with Moscow, the head of the non-governmental organization Officers of Russia and Hero of Russia, Maj. Gen. Sergei Lipovoy told RIA Novosti that he believed European security was fully dependent on relations with Russia as NATO became obsolete long ago.

    "It is long overdue for Europe to regain its political and military independence and form an independent army, as well as its own security system. NATO, in the form it has been existing for the past 30 years, has become obsolete," Lipovoy said [18].

    Lipovoy added that the European continent's security depended solely on normal and predictable relations between Russia and Europe. In this regard, he asserted, the statement by the French president clearly indicates that he is guided by the interests of France and the entire continent.

    Conversely, the general went on, some Eastern European countries and Baltic nations represent the interests of the US defense industry because NATO is almost 100 percent dependent on the US in terms of aviation, air defense systems, precision-guided munitions and other types of weaponry . In other words, Europe's defense industry, if it becomes completely subservient to Washington, could simply cease to exist, according to Lipovoy.


    Irrespective of whether or not Europe and NATO end up drifting apart amid the poorly-concealed discord, such as the Turkish military operation in Syria's north, Jonathan Eyal, associate director of the Royal United Sendees Institute (RUSI), said that Macron any way pleased NATO nay-sayers by declaring that the alliance's brain was dead. Eyal, however, has slammed the French president for being unable to provide something substantial in return while questioning the fundamentals of the post-war order.

    "When he was elected two years ago, Macron seemed to embody Europe's best hopes: young; energetic; determined to defeat the forces of populism; eager to shake off the political cobwebs of his country and of Europe. Today, however, he increasingly recalls the Duracell Bunny, the pink rabbit used in the battery manufacturer's adverts; it makes plenty of noise, travels in all directions, but all for no particular purpose, "the expert wrote in a commentary for the London-based think tank [19].

    Lode Vanoost, a former deputy speaker of the Belgian parliament, has recently told the RT broadcaster, that he treated the straightforward rhetoric of Macron as not "just some fancy words," but as a well-prepared strategy of influencing EU partners [XX].

    Vanoost hinted that Macron views the looming Brexit as a chance "to become an undisputed leader [XXI]" of the European bloc. E [e, nevertheless, agreed with the French president that Europe should break free from the US grip.

    "What the EU could do is find another way of dealing with the geostrategic affairs - through diplomacy, economy etc. That is what Macron is not saying because he has his own agenda. Let's not forget what the French Army is doing in West Africa, "he told RT [22].

    At the same time, the former lawmaker disagreed with Macron's claim that the European Union was balancing on the edge of an abyss and facing a potential threat


    to its existence. He opined that the situation was far from all doom and gloom, seeing no point in being excessively alarmist. "There are some big problems in the EU - economic and social, and there are indeed problems, but to put it that way is just alarming rhetoric," Vanoost said [23].

    What Macron has been indeed successful at is that he triggered a serious debate and even encouraged an initiative on setting up an expert panel on the alliance's future - the idea first put forward by the German top diplomat, Heiko Maas - to be considered at NATO's 70th birthday summit in London in December.

    Even French opposition could see a kernel of good sense in his words, although they suspect it may be caused by the president's desire to get re-elected. Gilles Le-breton, a French member of the European Parliament from opposition National Rally, believes that in such a way Macron is trying to score political points

    [24] .

    Olivier-Remy Bel, a visiting fellow at the Atlantic Council, who previously served as a European Affairs staffer to the French defense minister, said that Macron's interview reflected his grave concern about Europe's future and the shortfalls it has to address to guarantee its security rather than a substantial criticism of NATO's present-day condition.

    "Let's get hasty readings out of the way. Macron does not want NATO to be 'brain-dead.' By replying 'I do not know' to a question about whether NATO's Article Five mutual defense clause was effective, he is not signaling French reluctance to come to the aid of NATO allies. He is rather taking stock of the current travails of the Alliance , of the lack of coordination regarding Syria, and of the doubts cast by what he calls the 'guarantor of last resort': the United States, "Bel argued [25]. '

    From a historical perspective, France was one of the 12 founding members of NATO that signed the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4, 1949. Its capital Paris used to be home to the alliance's first permanent headquarters in the 1950s and 60s. However, in 1966 under the presidency of Charles de Gaulle, France decided to withdraw from the NATO Integrated Military Command Structures.

    This move was dictated by General de Gaulle's desire for greater military autonomy, in particular, vis-a-vis the US. What's interesting, in a letter to then US President Lyndon Baines Johnson, de Gaulle explained the motives of leaving the structures and noted that France sought "to change the form of our alliance without altering its substance" [26]. Only 43 years later, France announced its full participation in NATO's integrated military command.

    In terms of the modern-day financial contribution, France allocated 1.81% of its GDP to the NATO budget in XX18, versus 1.78% in 2017, ranking 6 out of the 29 contributors [27].

    Due credit must nonetheless be given to Macron's consistent advocacy for closer European defense cooperation, which has been one of his primary foreign policy goals in spite of the ongoing political turbulence. The incumbent French leader is now actively promoting the idea of ​​the European Intervention Initiative, which implies the rapid deployment of European military in case of a wide spectrum of crises, including natural disasters.

    Laying out his vision in a keynote Sorbonne speech in September XX17, Macron stated that in the defense area, he wanted to ensure Europe's autonomous operat-


    ing capabilities, which would complement those of NATO. The French-led project formally took shape in June XX18, when defense ministers from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom signed a Letter of Intent [28].

    To sum up, the European Intervention Initiative has an enormous potential to turn into a game-changer for the EU defense, especially owing to its flexibility and an ambitious objective of creating a shared strategic culture. The initiative is steadily growing in strength under the aegis of French President Macron who vows a reform drive, championing a resilient European defense union.

    Список використаної літератури

    1. Emmanuel Macron warns Europe: NATO is becoming brain-dead // URL: https: / / 07 / emmanuel-macron-wams-europe-nato-is-becoming-brain- dead

    2. Ibid.

    3. Ibid.

    4. Joint press point by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany // URL: 170640.htm

    5. Ibid.

    6. Ibid.

    7. Ibid.

    8. November 19, XX19: Press Briefing with Kay Bailey Hutchison // URL: hutchison /

    9. Declaration du President de la Republique avec Jens Stoltenberg, Secretaire general de POTAN // URL: https: // www. mac-ron / 2019/11/28 / declaration-du-president-de-la-republique-avec-iens-stoltenberg- secre-taire-general-de-lotan

    10. 'Are you brain dead?' Turkey's Erdogan asks Macron before NATO summit // URL: er-dogan-asks-macron-before-nato-summit-3 50623 9

    11. Turkey lashes at France's criticism of anti-terror op // URL: 1658539

    12. Check your 'brain death' first, Erdogan urges Macron on NATO // URL: http s: // www. hurri yetdail yne ws. com / check-your-brain-death-first-erdo gan-urges-macron-on-nato-149252

    13. Altun: "NATO needs to pursue common interest and security for all member states" // URL: eommon-interests-and-securitv-of-all-member-states

    14. Turquie - Communique - Convocation de l'ambassadeur de Turquie en France (29 novembre 2019) // URL: convocation-de-l-ambassadeur-de- turquie-en-france-29-11-19

    15. Emmanuel Macron in his own words (English). The French president's interview with The Economist // URL: / 07 / emmanuel -macron-in-hi s-own- words-english

    16. У Кремлі прокоментували слова Макрона про "смерть мозку" НАТО // URL:

    17. Захарова прокоментувала слова Макрона про «смерть мозку» НАТО // URL: 167 / posts / l 0220I105923387408

    18. У Росії відреагували на слова Макрона про "смерть мозку" НАТО // URL:

    19. France and NATO: President Macron Gets Clinical // URL: https: // rusi. org / commentary / france-and-nato-president-macron-gets-clinical

    20. Macron 'hit the mark' by calling NATO 'brain-dead' // URL:

    21. Ibid.

    22. Ibid.

    23. Ibid.

    24. Macron Challenges NATO's Status Quo, Policy On Russia Amid INF Treaty Demise // URL: // Link available only for subscribers

    25. "Brain-dead" or not "brain-dead"? That is not the question // URL: not-the-question /

    26. English translation of Charles de Gaulle's letter to President Johnson: March 7, 1966 // URL: static f! 2014 / assets / pdf / pdf histo-ry / XX190401 el-france - deGaulle-letter 030766 Translation.pdf

    27. France's role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) // URL: https: // www. diplomatie, gouv. fr / єп / french-foreign-polic y / security-disarmament- and-non-proliferation / the-institutional-framework-of-france-s-action / france-and-nato /

    28. Sorbonne speech of Emmanuel Macron // URL: https: //inter-national.blogs. oue st-france. fr / archive / 2017/09/29 / macron-sorbonne- verbatim-europe-18583 .html

    Ключові слова: NATO /European security /defense /France /Turkey /Operation Peace Spring /Russia

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