Angela Merkel launched a spirited defence of Nato on Wednesday in what was widely seen as a public rebuke to France’s Emmanuel Macron.
The transatlantic alliance is more important to Europe’s security today than it was at the height of the stand-off with the Soviet Union, Mrs Merkel told the German parliament
“More even than during the Cold War, it is in our own best interests to maintain Nato,” she told MPs. “Europe cannot defend itself.”
Describing Nato as a “bulwark of freedom and peace,” Mrs Merkel said Germany is “particularly indebted to our American friends.”
Her comments were clearly aimed at Mr Macron, who claimed earlier this month that the alliance is “brain dead” and said Europe can no longer rely on the US for its defence.
They come after Mrs Merkel reportedly rowed with Mr Macron over his remarks and told him she was “tired of picking up the pieces” after him.
Mrs Merkel’s latest comments came in a budget debate in the German parliament. The chancellor traditionally defends her government’s record in the debate, but despite heading an increasingly fragile coalition, Mrs Merkel chose to devote the first half of her speech to Nato.
She pledged to increase German defence spending to 1.5 per cent of GDP by 2024 and to reach Nato’s target of 2 per cent by the 2030s.
Germany has come under intense US pressure to meet the target as part of Donald Trump’s drive to make Europe pay more towards the cost of its own defence.
President Macron spoke out against the Trump administration’s attitude towards Nato in an interview with the Economist magazine earlier this month.
“We are currently experiencing the brain death of Nato,” Mr Macron said, arguing that Europe is “on the edge of a precipice” and needs to start thinking of itself as a geopolitical power.
Mrs Merkel was reportedly “furious” at the interview, and rowed with the French president over it on the sidelines of a dinner to mark the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall, according to an unconfirmed account in the New York Times.
“I understand your desire for disruptive politics, but I’m tired of picking up the pieces,” the newspaper claimed Mrs Merkel told Mr Macron. “Over and over, I have to glue together the cups you have broken so that we can then sit down and have a cup of tea together.”
It is no secret that Mrs Merkel does not share Mr Macron’s ambitions for a more federalist European Union, but relations between the two leaders have deteriorated in recent months.
When Mr Macron first became French president, much was made of his good relations with Mrs Merkel, and there were hopes the two could restore the Franco-German alliance at the heart of the EU.
But Mr Macron has reportedly grown impatient with Mrs Merkel blocking his initiatives for EU reform.
Mrs Merkel’s comments came as Ursula von der Leyen, the new president of the European Commission, also distanced herself from Mr Macron’s remarks on Wednesday.
Ms von der Leyen, a former German defence minister, said Nato would remain responsible for European security "without any question".
"The EU will never be a military alliance. The EU is completely different," she said, adding that the bloc’s strengths lie in trade, development and humanitarian assistance.
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