Macron says Nato revived by 'electric shock' of Ukraine war

French President once described US-led alliance as experiencing 'brain death'

Nato says it has strengthened defences on its eastern flank since Russia invaded Ukraine. AFP
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Russia has revived Nato with the “electric shock” of the war in Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday, after he once described the alliance as close to “brain dead”.

Mr Macron praised American aid for Ukraine and said Nato’s Article V mutual defence guarantee, underwritten by US military might, serves to “keep Russia in check”.

But he warned Europe not to “delegate its stability and security” to American voters.

The French leader has long championed what he calls European “strategic autonomy” and has in the past been rebuked by allies for appearing to question Europe’s alliance with Washington.

His comment in 2019 that the alliance was “experiencing brain death” came during the fraught years of Donald Trump’s presidency and followed tensions in the alliance over Nato member Turkey’s military campaign in Syria.

In a speech in Bratislava on Wednesday, he referred to his own “severe sentence” from four years ago which he said “underlined the divisions” that existed in Nato at the time.

“Today I can say that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin has woken it up with the worst of electric shocks,” he said.

“From the first days of the conflict, Nato ensured the security of its borders with great effectiveness. Article V has played its full role and I am convinced that it keeps Russia in check.”

epa07795439 French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and US President Donald J. Trump (L) shake hands and pose as they hold a press conference on the closing day of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, 26 August 2019.  EPA/IAN LANGSDON

Mr Macron said European powers should “be grateful to our American allies who provided a major part of the equipment and intelligence support to Ukraine.”

However, he warned that President Joe Biden’s Europe-friendly administration “will not be the same forever”. Mr Trump is seeking a comeback and European officials have openly expressed concern about his possible return.

The US wants Europe to share more responsibility in Nato “no matter who is in the government”, Mr Macron said.

“We cannot delegate our collective security and stability to the choice of American voters in the years to come,” he said.

“A European pillar at the heart of Nato is indispensable … because whether we like it or not, our geography will not change, we will live in the same place and Russia will remain Russia with the same borders and geography.”

Mr Macron made a failed bid to negotiate peace with Vladimir Putin in early 2022. AFP

The Bratislava security conference heard warnings from European leaders against a ceasefire that effectively cedes territory to Russia.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said a ceasefire along the current battle lines would be “inherently unstable” and discourage reconstruction and investment.

“After all, a ceasefire was in place after 2014, and we know what happened to that arrangement last February when Russia invaded Ukraine,” she said.

Mr Macron – who made a failed last-ditch bid to negotiate peace with Mr Putin early last year – said the conditions of any deal “have to be chosen by those who were attacked”.

Nato members Turkey and Hungary have called for an early ceasefire, while Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is promoting a 10-point peace plan that includes a complete Russian withdrawal.

Updated: May 31, 2023, 2:01 PM