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German defense minister takes on Macron over NATO 'brain-dead' comment

dw.com logo dw.com 11/12/2019 dw.com

NATO is a "decisive cornerstone" of security but getting the Germans to recognize its importance is another battle, said German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, speaking on the military alliance's future.

a man wearing a hat: Provided by Deutsche Welle © Reuters/H. Hanschke Provided by Deutsche Welle

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has spoken out in defense of NATO at a conference in Berlin, challenging French President Emmanuel Macron's earlier controversial assertion that the organization was "brain-dead."

"NATO remains a decisive cornerstone," said Kramp-Karrenbauer, speaking at the annual NATO Talk around the Brandenburger Tor event on Monday.

It was also important to explain to the German public why the country needs to play a more active role in international security matters, said Kramp-Karrenbauer.

But she admitted that discussions over security matters "win no popularity contests," saying that the German public would need a "weaning" period to get used to the idea of the nation wielding a larger military influence.

Read more: Why has Macron taken the lead in NATO-bashing?

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Germany united behind NATO

Wolfgang Ischinger, chair of the Munich Security Conference, formerly a German ambassador to the US and deputy foreign minister, also contested Macron's assertion at the conference.

"Our American partners have increased their presence in Europe. They are planning a big exercise next year, bigger than any exercise before. So we can't call it brain-dead," he said.

The comments by Kramp-Karrenbauer and Ischinger joined Merkel and other prominent German voices, who last week spoke out after Macron said a lack of US leadership had rendered NATO effectively "brain-dead."

Lacking coordination

However, Ischinger also appeared to support Macron's stance on leadership matters, saying "if I were the one sitting at the Elysee [Palace], I'd be concerned about NATO partners who are not coordinating with others."

This appeared to be a reference both to the United States, which pulled forces out of Syria without warning NATO partners in the region like the UK and France, and to Turkey, which then immediately sent its military into the area.

The French president has criticized both of these countries for their actions, with his comments following soon after.

Read more: Opinion: What Ursula von der Leyen learned from Angela Merkel

Spend more on the military, NATO: AKK

During Monday's conference, the German defense minister also reiterated familiar calls for more spending and military capabilities commitment to NATO, tweeting "solidarity is not a one-way street."

In the tweet, Kramp-Karrenbauer — also known as AKK — added: "For decades we've profited from our allies being responsible for our safety. I want to close the gaps between our often-formulated claims and our actual actions in the politics of security."

In her speech, she argued that Germany should aim to provide 10% of all military capabilities at NATO's disposal by 2031 — the same date she hopes Germany will reach its 2% spending commitment.

Read more: Pompeo, Merkel emphasize close ties despite differences

kmm, rc/cmk (dpa)

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