Emmanuel Macron was left isolated by the leaders of other Nato countries on Thursday after he defended his claim that the organisation was “brain dead”.
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The French President’s stark appraisal of the transatlantic alliance was given short shrift by EU allies who want to bind Nato countries closer together in the face of threats from Russia and other aggressors.
Ahead of a Nato meeting on the outskirts of London next week which will be attended by President Donald Trump and the leaders of the other 28 member countries, President Macron claimed his remarks served as a “wake-up call” to spur the alliance into redefining its strategic goals and asking “who’s the enemy?”
But The Daily Telegraph understands that Mr Macron’s comments received no support in a Nato foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels last week, with Germany his harshest critic.
EU leaders believe Europe needs still to rely heavily on Nato for its defence. European countries are keen to present a united front in the face of criticism of Nato from Mr Trump, who announced yesterday that he will reduce America’s contribution to the Nato budget.
Foreign Office sources suggested Mr Macron was trying to play to a domestic audience, as he is expected to urge allies to participate more in fighting the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the Sahel region of West Africa following the deaths of 13 French soldiers in a helicopter collision.
"The questions I have asked are open questions, that we haven’t solved yet,” said the French president after a meeting in Paris with Nato’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg.
"Peace in Europe, the post-INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty) situation, the relationship with Russia, the Turkey issue, who’s the enemy?,” he asked.
“As long as these questions are not resolved, let’s not negotiate about cost-sharing and burden-sharing, or this that."
"So we maybe needed a wake-up call. I’m glad it was delivered, and I’m glad everyone now thinks we should rather think about our strategic goals," said Mr Macron.
In this month’s the Economist, the French president warned that a lack of American willingness to defend its members had placed Europe "on the edge of the precipice”.
"I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what Nato is in the light of the commitment of the United States," he said, pointing to its unexpected troop withdrawal from north-eastern Syria last month, forsaking its Kurdish allies.
The Telegraph understands that President Macron’s comments were widely felt by members attending the Nato Foreign Minister’s meeting in Brussels last week to be mainly for a domestic audience and would not undermine the residual strength of the alliance..
On Thursday, Nato’s chief said that "in uncertain times, we need strong multilateral institutions like Nato," and that he had "good and open discussions" with the French president.
He praised France’s role in Mali against an Islamist insurgency and where it suffered its worst military loss in almost 40 years this week when two helicopters collided.
Britain has provided helicopters and around 100 security personnel to help France’s 4,500-member Barkhane force in West Africa, and the US provides intelligence support.
But Paris, which is acting "on behalf of everyone”, will launch an in-depth review of its involvement with "all options on the table", said Mr Macron.
"A bigger engagement by its allies is obviously something that would be quite positive," he said.
US president Donald Trump has repeatedly accused European Nato members of failing to meet commitments to spend at least two percent of GDP on defence.
By way of response, Mr Macron said that "our common enemy is the terrorism that has struck us all”.
"If some people want to see an example of what they term ‘cost-sharing’, they can come Monday to the ceremony France is organising" for the 13 soldiers killed in the Mali accident.
"There they will see the cost.”
The US on Thursday announced it is to cut its contribution to Nato’s operating budget with Germany meeting the shortfall. Washington was previously the biggest contributor, paying about 22 per cent. Now the US and Germany will both pay roughly 16 per cent.
Mr Macron also defended French attempts to renew ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which has riled EU leaders, calling for a "lucid, robust and demanding dialogue".
Russia has called on the US and other countries to declare a moratorium on the deployment of short and mid-range nuclear missiles in Europe after a treaty banning such a move formally ended in August.
Mr Macron said that while France had "absolutely not accepted" the proposal, “we shouldn’t just brush it off".
"Let’s be serious, this is the security of Europe we’re talking about," he said, adding that Europe must be involved in talks on any new pact.