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Macron defends 'brain death' criticism after talks with NATO chief

Paris: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday confronted Emmanuel Macron in Paris over the French president’s claim the alliance is suffering “brain death”, a charge that has set the stage for a testy NATO summit in London next week.

Addressing reporters after the talks, Macron said his damning assessment of NATO's crisis had been a "useful wake-up call" for the alliance.

Macron referred to NATO as being "brain-dead" in an interview earlier this month with The Economist magazine, in which he lamented the lack of strategic coordination between Europe and the United States.

As further evidence that NATO is in crisis, Macron cited NATO member Turkey’s recent intervention against a Western-backed Kurdish militia that had been leading the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Stoltenberg immediately defended the 70-year-old alliance, which binds the US to defending Europe in the event of attack and vice-versa, and said he would travel to Paris to seek clarification from Macron.

“I think that’s the best way to address any differences, to sit down and discuss them and to fully understand the messages and the motivations,” he said at the time.

EU and US-Russia nuclear treaty

Macron also said that European nations should be involved in any talks to forge a new pact limiting mid-range nuclear missiles held by the US and Russia, after a landmark Cold War-era accord fell apart this year.

“We cannot just content ourselves with bilateral treaties,” Macron said.

Washington and Moscow walked away from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in August after each accused the other of violating the terms of the deal.

Russia has called on the US and other NATO member to implement a moratorium on deploying medium-range missiles, something Stoltenberg has so far ruled out.

But Macron has made no secret of his wish to engage with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a range of disputes, saying he would raise the issue at a NATO meeting in London next week.

“We want a lucid, robust and demanding dialogue with Russia, with neither naivety nor complacency,” Macron said at a press conference alongside Stoltenberg at the Elysee Palace.

“An accord that would replace the INF... requires the involvement of Europeans,” he said. “It’s a question of the security of Europe.”

Macron’s remarks set the tone for a fractious gathering of NATO leaders in London on December 3-4.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday NATO is at least as essential today as it was during the Cold War.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticised alliance members for not spending enough on defence.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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