France Could be the Gateway Between the U.S. and Europe
Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer gave an interview for Les Echos on the main stakes of the May 25th NATO meeting. She discussed the role of the French president Macron in NATO saying that his priority is to preserve and reinforce the US-French special relationship in terms of defense cooperation. France’s military leadership in fighting terrorism makes Macron an immediately credible interlocutor for Trump. In the context of Brexit and Macron's ambitious European agenda, France could become the bridging power between the US and Europe. To make that happen, Macron first needs to foster with Berlin and London a coherent vision for a stronger European defense, which will be able to complement NATO'S role.
On Trump’s role in NATO, Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer said that he has contributed to destabilize the Alliance in two ways: First, his authoritarian practice of power has undermined NATO politically. Second, his questioning of US commitment to article 5 has created a general feeling of uncertainty across the Alliance. His transactional approach of burden-sharing has divided the Alliance, between those who seek to preserve their relation with Washington and rush for defense budget increases (UK, Central European and Scandinavian countries) and those who show their political and ideological divergences with the US president (France, Germany). However, Trump’s tactics have achieved in a few months what previous US administrations have not succeeded to do in years, i.e. getting Europeans to focus on defense spending and defense investment.
About NATO’S priorities and strategy, Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer argued that because the US considers NATO as a global alliance which should serve US global interests and because it cannot focus on one threat at a time, NATO should remain able to deal with the multiple threats it faces South and East. It was a mistake for the Alliance to focus solely on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency post 9-11, only to 'rediscover' article 5 in 2014 with Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Nato is now experiencing its third strategic shift in 15 years with Trump’s election and call to refocus on counterterrorism. These shifts have weakened NATO and its members' commitment. However, these divisions are being partiallly overcome with the participation of all member states in the reassurance measures in the East and the potential participation of NATO in the anti-Isis coalition.
On Turkey and NATO, Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer described the relationship as one of 'mutual dependence' whereby NATO relies on Ankara to contain the migrants coming from Syria and Ankara depends on NATO for its security in a context of neighboring conflicts. Turkey is not perceived as a reliable ally anymore but the geopolitical cost of a rupture would be too high. Hence Merkel’s accommodation of Ankara despite the diplomatic crisis around the Incirlik base.
Read the full piece in French below.