Oh, stop! Following the malicious satisfaction Donald Trump has taken in condemning NATO over the last few years, here comes Emmanuel Macron to join in. He recently declared the organization “brain dead.”
Maybe it’s nothing but provocation, but Emmanuel Macron is clearly trying to stir something up. Yet, the little game he’s playing could become dangerous if it helps imperil this organization, which remains highly relevant despite its venerable age.
Let’s remember that upon its establishment after World War II, Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay, the first secretary-general of NATO, said its role was to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”
Sixty years later, NATO’s role is rather different, but its importance is not.
It’s certainly important for Europe, where NATO is a barrier against renewed Russian ambition. However, it’s also important for a country such as Canada, whose security depends on its alliances.
Therefore, seeing the French president mimic Donald Trump’s criticism of NATO has something about it that disturbs France’s elected officials, and causes them to earnestly defend it and shelter it from the storm.
Will Trump one day get it into his head to leave NATO? We hope not. Nevertheless, the current situation requires Europeans to rethink their national security strategy. That’s what was behind Macron’s controversial statement.
This is all the more important as America’s disengagement from Europe and NATO may not be fleeting. Indeed, the trend toward disengagement began under Barack Obama, who preferred to look beyond Europe to Asia, and criticized NATO allies for not increasing their defense spending fast enough. This applied to Canada as well.
French trans-Atlantic foreign policy writer Benjamin Haddad is among those who have noticed the trend. He recently published a brilliant essay, “Lost Paradise,” on America’s changing relations with the rest of the world, in which he claims that Trump is not an accident of history and that America’s redefinition of its role is probably a long-term process.
Haddad writes, “We no longer have a choice: American retreat requires Europe to overhaul its strategy if it does not wish to become a theater for great power adventurism or succumb to instability imported from its neighbors.”*
It is thus to Europe’s advantage to achieve genuine military autonomy, which is what Macron meant when he spoke of the need to “muscle up” European defense.
That said, there is still no need to denigrate or reject NATO.
Current NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was therefore correct in affirming that “European unity cannot replace trans-Atlantic unity.” These are words that Canada must embrace.
On the eve of the December NATO summit in London, the moment has come to make an urgent plea that Canada remain in the organization, allowing it to maintain its vital military ties to European countries, and above all, benefit from NATO’s provision for mutual defense.
Article 5 of NATO’s charter is essential; it assures that if one of the organization’s 29 members is attacked, the others will come to its defense. This by itself is more than enough reason to preserve NATO and to stop trying to alter it.
It’s this treaty that allows its members to invest more money in social programs than in defense, which they have admittedly neglected. And this is a much more significant advantage, one which outweighs any doubt about the reliability of our American ally.
Renouncing support of NATO in both word and deed would send an extremely bad signal that democracies with their multilateralism and mutual cooperation are ailing at a time when autocratic countries such as China and Russia present an alternative to the Western model.
NATO is perhaps threatened like never before, but it’s not done for yet.
*Editor’s note: This quote, accurately translated, could not be verified.
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