Macron’s Frustration, NATO and Geopolitical Implications

President  Macron's comments on NATO have caused a stir. But that is what French presidents have always been expected to do  since General de Gaulle  in the 1960s.

Compared to de Gaulle, Macron has been fairly mild.  True he suggested that NATO might be “braindead”. De Gaulle went further. He withdrew France from NATO's Integrated Military Structure because he could not accept overall US  command in peacetime, of French forces allocated to NATO.

Macron' remarks were exaggerated  but he highlighted a real problem which, not surprisingly, arise out of President Trump's incoherent and dysfunctional approach to NATO.

Since becoming President, Trump has attacked his allies for inadequate spending on defence, demonstrated his preference for authoritarian leaders over democratic ones, and, without even consulting NATO allies has initiated major reversals of policy in Syria, Afghanistan and in relations with Turkey. In truth, Trump has no strategy; only a series of political spasms expressed in often juvenile tweets.

Emmanuel Macron as the Undisputed Leader in Europe
Fraser Cameron
Macron is on a high, chairing a tricky G7 summit at Biarritz with great skill and determination. With Merkel on a slow boat to retirement and the Brits out of the game, Macron is the undisputed leader in Europe.

 But Macron's understandable frustration is more persuasive than his declared remedies. He wants the European  Union to achieve strategic autonomy in defence; to so integrate its national military forces that it can be a military power in its own right and defend Europe even if the US withdraws from its commitments under Art 5 of the NATO Treaty.

As all major European powers, except the United Kingdom and Poland, do not spend even the 2% of their GDP that they are committed to as NATO members, Macron's aspirations would require heavy increases in defence spending including in France, itself.

But French rhetoric about a European Army can never be realised, even with increased spending, unless the EU transforms itself from a partnership of sovereign states into some form of Federal Union. Issues of peace or war cannot be decided by Qualified Majority voting but are the most crucial power of nation states. Europeans  are not prepared to consider that degree of political integration and may not be willing to do so for decades to come.

On a separate issue there has been discussion as to whether NATO, as an institution should take a position with regard to the rise of China as a major military power now with an expanding army and navy, quite apart from its nuclear weapons.

Traditionally Europe has seen its relations with China in terms of trade and economic cooperation. China's military growth was more a matter for the US as a fellow Pacific power, concerned with its own security and committed to helping the defence of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

That distance of Europe from China is now changing quite dramatically. Not only does China now have substantial maritime power with not only a large navy but a string of bases and port facilities from south China to the Middle East. It also has launched its Belt and Road Initiative which has major geopolitical implications for Europe.
Macron, Brussels and Washington
Samir Saran
Because of geopolitical changes, we are living the end of Western hegemony, and the West needs to cooperate with Russia in order to create a new system of confidence and security in Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron said at the meeting with the ambassadors. Macron is not necessarily dissenting with the official positions of Brussels or Washington — he is merely acknowledging a reality that both capitals are aware of. The global balance of power has irreversibly shifted and the transatlantic alliance must adapt to the realities of a multipolar world, Samir Saran, President of the Observer Research Foundation (New Delhi) asserts, responding to the questions asked by

For the first  time in two thousand years there is a direct land route between China and Europe that is not restricted to just a few silk traders with their camels and caravans. Instead of Central Asia being a massive barrier to direct contact between Europe and China we already have freight trains carrying exports and import in both directions every week between China and Western Europe. It is only a matter of time before there will be a major structure of roads, pipelines, railways and other means of transport that have never previously existed.

Easy access between countries and regions has military and geopolitical implications. If the relations between China and the United Kingdom, Germany and France were to deteriorate and become hostile NATO would, indeed, take an interest of a kind that has not been relevant in the past.

Thankfully, we are not there yet. But it will require an improved level of statesmanship and leadership not just between China and the US but also between China and Europe to ensure mutual peace and prosperity.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.