Last year, when French president Emmanuel Macron declared in an interview with the Economist that NATO was “brain dead,” he caused a stir throughout Europe. Official European reactions came quickly, and they were negative across the continent. NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “any attempt to distance Europe from North America will not only weaken the trans-Atlantic alliance, it is also risking dividing Europe itself. European unity cannot replace trans-Atlantic unity.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that she could not support Macron, and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki went as far as to qualify Macron’s statements as “dangerous.” Rather than hearing the French wake-up call, the rest of Europe rallied around the NATO flag. Instead of advancing the European debate and generating support for greater European defense efforts as Macron probably hoped to do, his statements apparently had the opposite effect. Allies eventually decided to bury the controversy in a reflection-group process, following a German proposal. Macron recently repeated his call for a stronger Europe at the Munich Security Conference, causing less irritated reactions — yet this event should not be seen as representative of the European debate. A large number of Europeans remain skeptical of Macron’s vision of a less dependent Europe.
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