November 29, 2019
Macron is doubling down on his Nato stance
Next week’s Nato summit in London promises to become a moment of truth not only for Nato itself, but especially for its European members. In particular, it will be a first test of Emmanuel Macron’s new strong-arm diplomacy.
Macron reiterated yesterday that he is ready to engage with Vladimir Putin over his proposal for a moratorium of land-based medium-range nuclear missiles. He is the only Nato leader who is. He said so standing next to Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, who was in Paris yesterday. Macron has written a letter to Putin - not co-ordinated with other Nato members - in which he offered to engage in talks. He did send a copy of the letter to other Nato leaders, but only after the fact. The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said he fears the proposal would add to Europe’s divisions and would lead to a decoupling of European and US security interests.
FAZ writes that the Europeans are sceptical of Putin’s offer because Nato believes that Russia has 64 undeclared cruise missile of the SSC-8 type, which could be armed with nuclear weapons. If Nato were to agree to a moratorium, the effect would be to give Russia an unfair advantage while stopping Nato countries from countering the threat.
For us, the bigger issue is whether Macron’s new diplomatic style can succeed. Probably not directly, but we think this is part of a broader diplomatic effort to shift the balance of views within the EU. What is not understood in Germany is that his diplomacy is also in part a consequence of Germany’s effective rebuttal of his EU reform plans. He does not owe anything to Angela Merkel. He is now extending the scope of his disruption from France to both of the EU and Nato at the same time. His big problem is a lack of allies, but on foreign policy and security his position is powerful. He has a veto on EU enlargement, and after Brexit France will be the only remaining nuclear power in the EU. Normally it is not a wise course of action in the EU to pursue goals in isolation. This might be different - if it is part of broader strategy.