NATO is like the Notre Dame cathedral: suffering from burnout but certainly not dead. What seems to be “brain dead” is France – its president has just reinvented himself as a herald of anti-Western propaganda.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced in The Economist a desire to make Europe a geopolitical power. Alas, the problem is Macron wants to increase Europe’s power by thwarting a main source of this power called NATO, which he declared “brain dead.” Why to increase Europe’s power by making it powerless? Although this might sounds paradoxical, there is a rationale behind Macron’s actions.
Macron as a herald of anti-Western propaganda
According to Macron NATO is “brain dead” because of Donald Trump, who stimulated distrust in the U.S. through unexpected actions, such as recent limitation of U.S. presence in Syria. As a result, Macron thinks NATO’s Article 5 which guarantees mutual defence of member countries in case of a foreign aggression cannot be trusted any more: the U.S. might not want defend EU counties when the time comes.
That is why Europe should cease to think strategically about transatlantic relations.
An unspoken thought clearly protruding from Macron’s narrative is this: Europe should abandon the notion of the West as a civilisational community as it is no longer useful. Instead, it should rather treat other great powers (Russia, China) as functional equivalents of the U.S. when it comes to reliable alliances.
Probably no one would pay attention to similar enunciations if they were uttered by anti-Western propagandists.
After all, Kremlin’s propaganda agencies, like RT/RUPTLY, have always been first to remind the world, daily, that the West is in principle doomed to fail and unworthy of preserving. From the perspective of Europe’s rivals, such narrative is understandable, as it effectively diminishes Western self-agency and sows fear in the EU’s future.
However, when an identical narrative is deliberately voiced by a key European political leader, things start to get very dangerous.
Trump as a lousy excuse for French nationalism
Why is Macron supporting such anti-Western propaganda? To further what he thinks constitutes the French national interest – namely a free-riding, bilateral cooperation with Russia, China and other great powers in a post-American world.
Needless to say, at Europe’s cost. Luckily, German chancellor Angela Merkel was among the first who noticed Macron’s strategy: reacting to his anti-NATO rant she called his claims “drastic” and reiterated that in spite of some problematic transatlantic issues NATO is a reliable and trustworthy partner.
She could have added another thing: that Macron’s dream of EU as a sovereign geopolitical power is not contradicting Donald Trump’s vision at all. After all, it was Trump who kept saying the EU must be able to defend itself and increase its security-related spending (to 2% of national GDPs).
This would help realise a goal Macron himself is advocating in The Economist – an increase of geopolitical EU’s power. If both the US and France want to see Europe be more powerful, then why is Macron pitting Europe against Trump?
Such attitude cannot be viewed as anything else than an intellectual dishonesty driven by anti-Americanism.
Another instance of Macron’s dishonesty is his claim that the U.S. is acting against European nations altogether, readying itself to decompose NATO.
In fact, it is other way around – American involvement in Europe is testified by things like recent deployment of more American troops to Poland or its support for the Three Seas Initiative – an EU project aimed at increasing infrastructural cohesion in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. Certainly, it is possible Macron forgets about all this, or he just treats other parts of Europe – including Baltic states, Poland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania or Bulgaria – as irrelevant; or he keeps viewing eastern EU altogether as an obstacle for his deals with war waging, anti-European powers beyond EU’s eastern borders.
Be this as it may, he keeps using the Kremlin’s playbook for smearing NATO as “brain dead”. What will surely follow in the future will be Macron’s intensified bilateral negotiations with Russia and China – two superpowers that will eagerly watch over the decline of the West as we know it.
Macron’s rulebook: early adoption at all costs
Certainly, NATO today is not in the best shape possible.
It is rather like the Notre Dame cathedral of Paris: somehow weakened after burnout, but certainly not dead.
France in turn, thanks to its president, seems to be in a critical, brain-dead-like condition. Only this condition would justify Macron’s reinvention of himself as a free rider on European solidarity and a herald of anti-Western propaganda.
Such an attitude will surely result in lose-lose scenarios in the long run. It is not only disruptive, but also utterly destructive, dubious and despicable.
What then is wrong with Macron? It seems that, unable to cope with domestic affairs the French president tries to win an upper hand internationally, by altering megatrends that are not favouring his agenda. To put it bluntly – neither social, nor political, nor even civilisational dynamics are doing well in France these days.
The country is – and will be – a very powerful economic player, sure, but Macron is being faced with an increasing domestic stress related to just too many issues. To mention three of them: first, the migration crisis that is not being absorbed by French national capacities, thus leading to social unrest and political radicalisation. Second, the failed organisational reform of Islam that will cause ethnoreligious disintegration and decline of social cohesion in the country. Third, economic failure to alleviate the restless despair of a declining middle class which is gradually being transformed into a persistent Yellow Vests precariat.
In a country with revolutionary traditions, this is not a good omen at all.
Faced with such dynamics Emmanuel Macron tries to turn the tables in order to benefit from being an early adopter of a new geopolitical rulebook. In other words, by helping foreign powers – now – to undermine the transatlantic alliance, he hopes to gain a lot once the ongoing multilateral transformation of the U.S.-led world comes to an end – and the new “Yalta” or balance of power is formed.
To secure such gains, nationalist Macron is ready to sacrifice the West or EU – the very EU he is allegedly so eager to empower.
Thus far, in order to cut out some space for his leadership, he keeps insulting countries like Ukraine and Bulgaria (vide: Macron’s recent claims about Ukrainian and Bulgarian gangs as great threat for French national security; as if non-integrating local gangs were not a more imminent threat). Similar case with Bosnia – Macron’s recent remarks on Bosnia as a jihadist “ticking bomb” sound simply funny considering a bomb that is ticking within France itself – only a month ago a police-agent-turned-jihadist murdered four policemen in police HQ in Paris, located vis-à-vis famous Notre Dame cathedral.
Are not these local jihadists more important than a remote threat that will not materialize itself anytime soon? Of course they are, but Macron prefers to point at threats far away in order to sustain credibility.
What is more, similar logics led Macron to block EU accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. As a consequence, a moment later Russia stepped in to offer membership in Eurasian Union to those countries. A mere coincidence perhaps?
Such disruptive policy to an extent mirrors the strategies applied by Macron’s predecessors. In recent decades, France has not only been torpedoing transatlantic relations, but it has also been persistently blocking efforts to extend EU’s reach to the east and southeast – to mention French leading role in crippling Eastern Partnership that aimed at supporting countries such as Ukraine or Georgia.
Certainly, France has a sovereign right to block everything it wants to in order to disrupt international order, but one should have such actions in mind before taking seriously Macron’s pleas to make the EU a geopolitical power.
Civilisational precipice and EU as superpower
Having said this, it is crucial to reiterate that the EU could and should become a real geopolitical power in the current international setting.
On the State Power Index (a smart power index of almost all countries in the globe) a few years ago for Europa Institute, we counted a hypothetical power of a more integrated European Union. The multidimensional data gathered indicated that EU could outrank USA, China or Russia, thus becoming the most influential geopolitical player in the world.
However, this power is only hypothetical, and with free-riding attitudes like the one by Emmanuel Macron, it will never be realised. Especially that the Bretton Woods global system persists mostly thanks to a hierarchical networks of mutual dependencies between America and Europe.
The West barely holds the system together and it is now evident the order is cracking and shaking. In this context, annihilating the West right now will certainly have more tragic consequences than benefits – for both France and Europe.
The U.S. and the EU are simply too weak to keep the system without each other. That is why it is high time for EU diplomats to ask the French president if he really wants the West to crack. There is not much time left before similar undertakings as his, amplified by anti-Western propaganda, may cripple international trust in the West for good.
Certainly, one has to agree with president Macron that Europe stands on the edge of “a precipice”. Indeed, the precipice is there and falling down would mean decades if not a century of civilisational oblivion for Europe.
The problem is that President Macron wants to make a very bold step forward.
Dr. Greg Lewicki