“French president Emmanuel Macron has,” an article in the Financial Post says, “opened a rift with Germany and other Nato allies weeks ahead of a vital summit after he warned that the transatlantic security alliance was suffering “brain death”. German chancellor Angela Merkel rejected Mr Macron’s “sweeping blow” against the alliance, in which he strongly criticised a lack of strategic co-ordination between the US and other Nato allies over the invasion of Syria last month by Turkey, one of its members.“
There may be something of a ‘back-story’ to President Macron’s intemperate outburst, another story in the Financial Times notes that he is “an immodest man” with an “imperious manner” which may be hiding the fact that he has “a secret understanding that, for all the pleasure some will draw from Britain’s misfortunes, France may well emerge the biggest Brexit loser among the EU27 … [because] … Post-Brexit, the union will look and feel quite different. Above all, the power imbalance between Berlin and Paris will be brutally exposed.” France is, to quote a French diplomat some years ago, really nothing more than a “shitty little country” which is socially divided, a military fake (as is Canada) and an economic basket case that can only pay its bills because Germany continues to act as the European Union’s placid fiscal milk cow. For a generation, Britain has formed part of an unofficial tri-lateral arrangement that allowed the French and Germans to pretend otherwise; when, rather than if, the Brexit happens, the full extent of the power imbalance in Europe will be clear to all.
That being said, President Macron is correct to insinuate that NATO is “brain dead” because he recognizes that, ever since the 1940s, America has provided NATO’s heart, soul, muscle and brains. America is to the NATO 29 as Germany is to the EU 28. But President Donald Trump is, above all, an America Firster who believes that alliances tie America’s hands and that allies are, surreptitiously, working to weaken America for their own benefit. He tends to favour leaders who have the same autocratic tendencies as he does ~ he ought to like President Macron ~ but, in reality, he, and his America has no friends, no allies not even permanent interests because President rump sees no farther than a quarterly report. He is totally devoid of strategic vision.
The EU and NATO share a common problem: they are too big! They are so big that, even with the best of leadership, which has been sadly lacking for decades, they would be rudderless because leading a 25+ member “union” or “alliance” is too much like herding cats. Both bodies grew too far and too fast for all the wrong reasons. Both expanded, mainly, to Germany’s commercial advantage and, unconsciously, I think, in pursuit of a German dream of a German-led Mitteleuropa which would dominate Europe from the Atlantic and the English Channel all the way to Scandinavia and the Baltic states and as far south as Turkey and the Caucasus, leaving only the cold, remote and difficult British Isles and Iceland and semi-Asian Russia out of its grasp. In the 1940s the Americans, aided by Canada’s Louis St Laurent, cobbled together an anti-Soviet alliance that was centred, militarily, in France but was intended, in the main, to protect Germany and allow it to rebuild and rejoin the West.
I believe that Truman, Marshall, Atcheson Kennan and Eisenhower and all the others, and Canada’s St Laurent, Pearson and Robertson, too, understood that Germany would rise and lead Europe, again, but the aim was that it would be a peaceful, liberal Germany which would have, on its own terms, disposed of the demons that led to Hitler. The French and some others, led by Robert Schumann, Paul-Henri Spaak and Konrad Adenauer, and goaded by Truman and Churchill took the first steps towards forming the EU which would be defended by NATO (with America’s nuclear arms and immense industrial capacity backing it up) and could grow and prosper without fear. That all happened but, in the 1990s, it all began to go wrong. First NATO lost its main raison d’être when the Soviet Union collapsed ~ it was slow to find a new role and in the process, it expanded and gave an emerging Russia a real grievance. The EU also expanded but too far and too fast. The Euro (€) was always a goal for some, but it was brought into being without the sort of fiscal and political discipline that a currency union requires.
So, both the EU and NATO are “brain dead:” the EU because Chancellor Merkel wants to retire quietly, having no more crises on her watch (and France will never lead Europe ~ the next European leader will be another German or a German surrogate); and NATO because President Trump wills it so ~ it’s brain dead because it reflects him.
The incoming president of the European Council, Charles Mitchel of Belgium, has called on Europe to get its act together and to do more to avoid becoming collateral damage in the ongoing struggles between America and China, but how to “better coordinate” the foreign policies of 25+ diverse nations? That’s the dilemma facing both Europe and NATO.
There are implications for Canada. I all honesty, we must acknowledge that Canada has not stood lower in the world than since the 1930s. Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland have, in four short years, reduced his country to the status of an international afterthought. We must try to preserve the “seats at the table,” including at the NATO table, that we earned in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. We should try to expand our power and influence but I’m afraid that runs exactly counter to the current government’s instincts which, always, put the concerns of the Laurentian Elites ahead of the national interest.