December 3, 2019 (Awdinle Online) –Differences between French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump were on full display as NATO leaders gathered for a summit in London.
In an almost 40-minute session with journalists the two leaders clashed on a number of issues including burden sharing within NATO, terrorism, Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, and the U.S. withdrawal from an arms treaty with Russia.
The two leaders met hours after Trump criticized Macron for his recent statement describing NATO as experiencing a “brain death,” due to diminished U.S. leadership. Trump called it a “nasty statement.”
As the two sat down for talks, Trump warned member countries who do not meet NATO’s guideline of spending 2% of GDP on collective defense could be dealt with “from a trade standpoint” referring to tariffs on products including French wine.
This prompted Macron, who is currently contributing 1.9% of France’s GDB towards NATO’s defense, to push back.
“It’s not just about money,” Macron said. “What about peace in Europe?” he asked Trump.
“It’s impossible just to say we have to put money, we have to put soldiers, without being clear on the fundamentals of what NATO should be,” Macron said.
Macron said he supports a stronger European component in NATO but points out that after the end of the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty, European countries are faced with the new threat of Russian missiles.
The Trump administration withdrew from the 1987 arms control treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union in August after what it says were Moscow’s repeated violations of the agreement.
Islamic State threat
Trump and Macron argued about how to deal with Islamic State after the October withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, a move Trump made without consulting the alliance. The withdrawal paved the way for Turkey to launch an offensive against the U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in northern Syria and triggered fear among allies of a potential IS resurgence.
In response to a question on whether France should do more to take Islamic State fighters captured in the Middle East, Trump asked Macron if he would like “some nice ISIS fighters”.
Macron countered that the main problem is IS fighters in the region. Referring to the abrupt U.S. withdrawal from northern Syria, Macron said “you have more and more of these fighters due to the situation today”.
Macron is “more on the side of those who wants to actually face up to the crisis and talk about it,” said Hans Kundnani of Chatham House. He is the sort of “disruptive factor” compared to other leaders who may choose to paper over disagreements, Kundnani said.
Earlier Tuesday, as Trump met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the U.S. president said Macron’s “brain death” comments regarding NATO were “insulting” to other members.
In the past Trump has repeatedly criticized the alliance as “obsolete” and expressed his desire to leave it. But the president seemed to have changed his tune, saying that NATO “serves a great purpose”.
The French leader warned in a recent interview with The Economist that European countries can no longer rely on the United States to defend NATO allies and need to start taking care of their own security.
“As Emmanuel Macron considers complacency as the most pressing danger facing Europe and European security, he is likely to reaffirm his comments and continue to push for all allies to clarify their position in this debate,” said Martin Quencez, Deputy Director of the Paris Office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.