Is the Mighty NATO Alliance Dying? Three Ways It Can Be Saved

Daniel R. DePetris

Rarely has a single moment of honesty caused such trepidation in the halls of power in Europe.

Sitting down with the Economist on November 7 for an exclusive interview, French President Emmanuel Macron talked about NATO as if it was a zombie slowly and mindlessly walking around without a care in the world, oblivious to its surroundings.  

Macron’s description of the transatlantic alliance as brain dead has ruffled feathers far and wide and caused the foreign policy establishments on both sides of the Atlantic to shiver in fear. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the dean of the European political elite, slapped Macron’s remarks as “inappropriate”—even pulling him aside to dress him down at a dinner to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, condemned the Frenchman’s comments as “dangerous” to the alliance: “I think President Macron’s doubts about [Nato’s mutual defence clause] can make other allies wonder if perhaps it is France that has concerns about sticking to it,” Morawiecki told the Financial Times.  Back stateside, the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Kori Schake wrote in the Atlantic that the sentiments expressed by Macron are indicative of a larger trend of Europeans increasingly questioning Washington’s commitment to the sacrosanct Article 5.

All of which begs a simple question: is NATO really a strong and durable military organization when a single negative comment from a single leader can shake the alliance to its core? Indeed, by throwing such a fuss, NATO boosters in the United States and Europe are making the case for those of us who have long argued that the alliance could use a jolt in the arm. Holding ceremonies, patting each other on the back, and assuring one another that everything is hunky-dory is no longer an option for NATO ministers.

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