PARIS     -    French President Emmanuel Macron, in an interview with British weekly The Economist, warned fellow European countries that they could no longer rely on the United States to defend North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies.

“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Macron was quoted as saying. Asked whether he still believed in the Article Five “collective defence” stipulations of NATO’s founding treaty - under which an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies - Macron answered: “I don’t know.”

“(NATO) only works if the guarantor of last resort functions as such. I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States,” Macron added. The United States is showing signs of “turning its back on us”, as demonstrated by President Donald Trump’s sudden decision last month to pull troops out of northeastern Syria last month without consulting the allies, the French leader said.

That move caught NATO’s leading European powers - France, Britain and Germany - by surprise and paved the way for Turkey, another NATO member, to launch a cross-border military operation targeting Syrian Kurdish forces.

At the time Macron decried NATO’s inability to react to Turkey’s offensive and said it was time Europe stopped acting like a junior ally of the United States when it came to the Middle East. The European allies fear the US withdrawal from northeastern Syria will cause a security vacuum that can be exploited by Islamist militants.

France has long pressed for closer European defence cooperation but has faced resistance from Britain and others which say the United States remains key to Western defence, especially in the face of a more assertive Russia.

Trump has been strongly critical of European countries’ heavy reliance on the United States for their defence and the failure of some, notably Germany, to hit a NATO target of spending 2% of national output on defence.

Europe at risk if Germany

turns its back on US

Berlin must not forget Washington’s crucial role in allowing Europe and Germany to reunify after the Cold War, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, after Germany’s foreign minister called unity “a gift from Europe”.

Stoltenberg, who has already been credited with keeping a sceptical U.S. President Donald Trump onside at NATO, sought to remind Germans of the United States’ commitment to European security, which includes U.S. troops in Europe.

“The reunification of Germany and Europe would have been impossible without the United States’ security guarantee,” he said at an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“Any attempt to distance Europe from North America will not only weaken the transatlantic Alliance, it also risks dividing Europe itself.”

Tensions between Berlin and Washington have grown under Trump, who has pulled out of a series of international treaties that have undermined European Union foreign policy. At a NATO summit last July, the U.S. president accused Germany of being a “captive” of Russia because its reliance on Moscow for energy. His envoy to Berlin in August called Germany’s low defence spending “offensive.”

In an article published in 26 European countries last weekend, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas pointedly omitted giving the United States credit for victory over the Soviet Union and the security that allowed the EU to develop. Echoing his earlier comments about what he sees as U.S. unreliability under Trump, Maas called on the European Union to come together as a power to stand up for the continent.

But Stoltenberg cautioned that while he supported efforts to integrate EU defences, the bloc, which Britain is seeking to leave, was no replacement for the United States, the world’s biggest military power.

“The European Union cannot defend Europe,” he said.

He also called on Europe and the United States to work together to respond to China’s growing military might, noting the sharp growth in China’s navy and in its inventory of missiles that would break Cold War-era arms control treaties.