NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands at the end of a news conference after their meeting at the Elysee palace in Paris, France Nov 28, 2019. (Photo: Agencies)
PARIS - French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said his remarks that NATO was experiencing "brain death" had been a useful wake-up call to alliance members, and he would not apologise for saying it.
Macron's blunt verdict ahead of a Dec 4 summit in Britain drew strong reaction from European peers who believe Europe still needs to rely heavily on the transatlantic military alliance for its defence.
But the French leader, speaking alongside NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, made no apology for the remarks, which he said were needed after allies became too focused on budget issues instead of evolving geopolitics.
"The questions I have asked are open questions, that we haven't solved yet," Macron said at a joint news conference with NATO's secretary general.
"Peace in Europe, the post-INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty) situation, the relationship with Russia, the Turkey issue, who's the enemy? So I say: as long as these questions are not resolved, let's not negotiate about cost-sharing and burden-sharing, or this or the other."
"So we maybe needed a wake-up call. I'm glad it was delivered, and I'm glad everyone now thinks we should rather think about our strategic goals," Macron said. "So I make absolutely no apology for having cleared up ambiguities."
Stoltenberg responded that in uncertain times, strong multilateral institutions such as NATO were essential.
"It's no secret that there certainly are differences between allies," he said. "But the strength of NATO is that we have had the same kind of differences before, and every time we have been able to overcome them."