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Berlin Again Pushes Back On NATO Criticism, Citing Crucial U.S. Role

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (file photo)

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas doubled down on Berlin's tough stance toward recent French criticism of NATO on November 10, warning that "neither Germany nor Europe will be able to effectively protect themselves" without the United States.

The contretemps between Berlin and Paris comes with Washington pressing hard for NATO allies to contribute more for defense and continuing friction between the Trump administration and traditional allies over policies concerning Iran, Russia, and collective security.

French President Emmanuel Macron told The Economist this week that NATO was "brain dead" and suggested Europe must take security into its own hands and could not depend on the United States to defend its allies.

"It would be a mistake if we undermined NATO," Maas said in a wide-ranging guest contribution to Der Spiegel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had responded to Macron's remarks by rejecting such "sweeping judgments."

Officials in a number of other NATO member states -- particularly postcommunist countries including Poland, Estonia, and Lithuania -- also expressed concern at Macron's assessment.

Merkel used a speech on November 9 marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall to urge Europe to defend democracy and freedom.

"The values upon which Europe is founded...are anything but self-evident. And they must always be lived out and defended anew," she told senior officials and other invited guests in Berlin.

President Donald Trump has consistently prodded NATO allies to take up a "fair" share of the security burden, calling longtime allies out publicly, bluntly, and repeatedly since taking office nearly three years ago.

On the eve of the Berlin Wall ceremonies, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen cautioned that the West faced fresh challenges from Russia and China.

Pompeo warned that "we can never take...things for granted."

France has had a hot-and-cool relationship with NATO since its days as a founding member of the alliance in 1949.

Macron's warning came just a month before a NATO summit scheduled for December 4 in London.

But Germany's Maas also acknowledged the need for Europeans to ensure their defense capabilities.

"That's why together with France, we are working hard to build a Europe that works much closer together in security policy," Maas wrote, according to Reuters.

With reporting by Der Spiegel, Reuters, and AFP
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