Germany warns France against undermining NATO security alliance

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned on Sunday against undermining NATO, in Berlin’s strongest response to date to French President Emmanuel Macron’s critical remarks about the security alliance.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks at a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with the Quadriga of the Brandenburg Gate in the background, in Berlin, Germany November 9, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/Pool

Macron told The Economist this week that NATO was experiencing “brain death”, citing a lack of coordination and U.S. unpredictability under President Donald Trump. He also expressed doubt about the U.S.-led alliance’s security maxim that an attack on one ally would be treated as an attack on all.

“It would be a mistake if we undermined NATO. Without the United States, neither Germany nor Europe will be able to effectively protect themselves,” Maas wrote in a column published online by Der Spiegel magazine.

Maas supported Macron’s call to strengthen Europe’s defense capabilities. “That’s why together with France, we are working hard to build a Europe that works much closer together in security policy,” Maas wrote.

France has traditionally had an ambivalent role in NATO, taking no part in its strategic military planning from 1966 to 2009 despite being a founding member. Still Macron’s comments - a month before NATO’s Dec. 4 summit in London - were unexpected.

Germany, for its part, has been accused by the United States and European allies of spending too little on defense.

Maas repeated his call for the creation of a European Security Council in which Britain should also be a member, regardless of London’s planned exit from the European Union.

Maas said he was working closely on this idea with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, and Germany would present a framework for such a council during its EU presidency in the second half of 2020.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her weekly video podcast that NATO was the central pillar of Germany’s defense architecture, adding that European countries had to take on more responsibilities in the security alliance.

“We’ll also develop weapons systems together in the future. This includes the project of a new combat aircraft as well as a battle tank,” said Merkel.

The chancellor will meet Macron in Berlin later on Sunday during a dinner to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Andrew Heavens