French President Emmanuel Macron’s interview with the Economist will be remembered for his criticisms of NATO and not for his views about Europe’s future. During the annual Berlin Foreign Policy Forum, I asked several participants if they thought NATO was brain-dead. Here are their responses.
Noah BarkinVisiting Academic Fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies
Yes. NATO needs to be reinvented for the twenty-first century.
Nicolas BauquetResearch Director at the Institut Montaigne
There is no way to know whether NATO is brain-dead or not. The response will be given by the U.S. president and the U.S. electorate in 2020. As Europeans, we should do everything in our power to strengthen NATO as much as possible and to be ready for the day that it ceases to exist.
Olaf BöhnkeBerlin Director at Rasmussen Global
I agree particularly with Macron that we need a more open political dialogue. Several countries have to do their homework—especially when it comes to capabilities. The pressure from the United States is good, but it needs to be much more constructive.
Dominik P. JankowskiPolitical Adviser and Head of the Political Section at the Polish Permanent Delegation to NATO
2019 was supposed to be a big birthday party for NATO. Unfortunately, the celebrations did not exactly go as planned. In fact, at every party you have two main groups: those who come to have a good time, and those who join mainly to criticize the host.
Yet, 2019 confirmed the politico-military substance, which is the true glue of NATO. On numerous occasions, this has proven to be more important than fiery speeches and digital rhetoric. In 2019, NATO did deliver.
The list of concrete decisions remains robust and includes, among others: adoption of the Black Sea package; speeding up of the military adaptation in response to the Russian violation of the INF Treaty; update of the baseline requirement for civilian telecommunications to cover 5G; recognition of space as an operational domain; full operationalization of the counter-hybrid support teams as a dedicated instrument to help allies respond to a hybrid attack; adoption of the first roadmap to deal with disruptive and emerging technologies.
NATO is alive and kicking. If Émile Zola was to write his famous article today (“J’Accuse…!”), it surely wouldn’t be about NATO and its idleness.
Alexander Graf LambsdorffMember of Parliament in Germany for the Free Democratic Party
Actually, I think Emmanuel Macron is both right and wrong. He is right that Turkish behavior and American behavior have been uncoordinated—without consultations among allies. There is a need for a more political, coordinating role. Where he is wrong is in using this term (brain-dead), which overshadowed his very interesting interview, because it essentially muted the great ideas it contained.
Claudia MajorSenior Associate for International Security at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs
No. Militarily, NATO works. In fact, rather well. Politically, it is difficult due to the U.S. factor and Turkey. There’s a real challenge in keeping Europeans united. The question for me is: How are we going to organize European defense in ten or fifteen years?
Ulrich SpeckSenior Visiting Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States
No. We have a broad agreement in the transatlantic alliance to deter Russia and defend NATO territory, especially on its eastern flank. The debates taking place were operational. There is no need for a broad strategic debate, because there is an agreement between NATO countries about the mission.
Tara VarmaPolicy Fellow and Head of the Paris Office at the European Council on Foreign Relations
I don’t think it’s brain dead. But we need to make the European Union more significant as a military and political actor.
Lynett Margaret WoodAustralian Ambassador to Germany
No. It was a hyperbolic comment. You can’t say it’s brain dead when its forces are still in Afghanistan and in the Balkans. I understand it as a positive provocation to generate discussion about European security and beyond.