U.S. President Donald Trump at the 70th anniversary celebration lashed out France’s Emmanuel Macron of being “nasty” for saying Nato was “brain dead”and also Germany for spending too little on defense.
“It is a very, very nasty statement. I think they have a very high unemployment rate in France. France is not doing well economically at all,” he said.
“It is a very tough statement to make when you have such difficulty in France when you look at what is going on. They have had a very rough year. You just can’t go around making statements like that about Nato. It is very disrespectful.”
He also said he could see France “breaking off” from Nato, but did not explain why.
But speaking last month, Mr Macron complained that Nato members were no longer co-operating on key issues.
He described the alliance as “brain dead”, stressing what he saw as a waning commitment from its biggest guarantor – the US.
The summit, due to get under way later on Tuesday, has already been overshadowed by a bitter row between member states France and Turkey, and a continuing debate over money.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will oppose Nato’s plan for the defence of the Baltic region if it does not back Turkey over its fight against Kurdish groups it considers terrorists.
“Nobody needs NATO more than France,” he said, adding that France, where Macron is seeking to push through delicate reforms of a large state sector, was “not doing well economically”.
In an interview with the Economist last month, Macron made headlines by faulting NATO for failing to update its strategy to respond to newer threats such as instability in Syria.
Trump explicitly linked his complaint that Europe does not pay enough for NATO’s security missions to his staunch “America First” defense of U.S. commercial interests, saying it was time for Europe to “shape up” on both fronts.
“It’s not right to be taken advantage of on NATO and also then to be taken advantage of on trade, and that’s what happens. We can’t let that happen,” he said of transatlantic disputes over everything from the aerospace sector to a European “digital tax” on U.S. technology giants.
Dismissing recent signals from Germany that it was ready to do more to match a NATO target of spending two percent of national output on defense, Trump accused it and other nations which spend less than that of being “delinquent”.
Nato – the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – was founded after World War Two to counter the threat of Soviet expansion. The 29 member states pledge to come to the aid of one another should any come under attack.
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