French President Emmanuel Macron called on all European nations to invest more heavily in defense and develop financial security within the continent. Macron’s stated goal would be to reduce the continent’s reliance on the United States for both physical and financial security, but the underlying premise was clear: Macron does not believe the United States will act in the best interest of its European allies.
“The real question for Europe is if China and the U.S. see Europe as being strategically autonomous; today they don’t,” Macron said in Paris on Monday. “Europe can no longer rely solely on the United States for its security. We must guarantee our own security and sovereignty.”
Surprisingly, Macron even extended an olive branch to Russia, saying he’d like to see European powers work alongside Russia to help ensure their security, provided Russia ended the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which led to the Russian military annexation of Crimea in 2014 and a cascading effect throughout NATO. The United States, among other nations, has devoted considerable resources to bolstering European defenses in the years since.
“This reinforced solidarity will imply a revision of the European architecture of defense and security: by initiating a renewed dialogue on cybersecurity, chemical weapons, conventional weaponry, territorial conflicts, space security, the protection of the polar zones, in particular with Russia,” Macron said.
President Trump, like President Obama before him, has repeatedly called on NATO member states to meet their financial obligations to the alliance, though, to date, only five of the 28 member states do. Ironically, European nations could potentially do both, as NATO member’s largest financial commitments are simply to defense spending. In effect, the agreement is that every nation will devote two percent of their national GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to defense, allowing all nations the opportunity to devote the same level of their available resources to the collective defensive endeavor. If European states were to ramp of defense spending in favor of Macron’s sovereign Europe vision, that would likely also lead to more nations fulfilling their obligations to the U.S. led alliance.
However, Macron’s emphasis had little to do with NATO obligations and instead focused on the “solidarity” system laid out in the European Union’s collective defense clause. Article 5 of the NATO charter calls for all member states to see an attack on one nation as an attack on all of them, but Macron instead discussed Article 42.7 of the EU constitution, which serves as their own continent-specific equivalent, saying specifically that Europe needs to be able to defend itself without the aid of the United States. This statement could be taken two ways by analysts: a stronger European alliance would mean the United States could potentially reduce its defense commitments within the continent, reducing the overall cost of global operations and the number of U.S. service members potentially in harm’s way if a conflict were to break out on European soil. Conversely, it would also mean a significant downturn in the diplomatic leverage the United States maintains over the economically powerful continent.
There is little doubt that President Trump’s often abrasive approach to allied relations has exacerbated European concerns about U.S. support, but Macron did attempt to steer the discussion away from concerns about the American president.
“The real question is not to know if I will be holding Trump’s arm at the next summit, but how we will collectively face this moment of great changes that we are living through and that our societies are confronted with,” Macron said.