Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused Emmanuel Macron of irresponsibility after the French president said Nato was suffering “brain death” and questioned the security alliance’s commitment to mutual defence.
In an interview Mr Morawiecki said Nato was “the most important alliance in the world when it comes to preserving freedom and peace”. He said Mr Macron’s questioning of whether its members could still be counted on to defend each other — the cornerstone of Europe’s security architecture — was “dangerous”.
“I think President Macron’s doubts about [Nato’s mutual defence clause] can make other allies wonder if perhaps it is France that has concerns about sticking to it. I hope that we can still count on France fulfilling its obligations,” Mr Morawiecki told the Financial Times.
Mr Macron’s comments in an interview with the Economist underlined mounting concerns in western capitals about the future of the transatlantic alliance, which has been shaken by the unilateralism of US president Donald Trump.
Mr Trump branded Nato “obsolete” during his election campaign, and last month shocked other members of the alliance by withdrawing US troops from northeastern Syria and in effect allowing Turkey to invade without first consulting with other Nato partners.
However, Mr Morawiecki, whose country has long been a staunch US ally, said Nato’s problems did not stem from the ambivalence of Mr Trump, but from a lack of commitment from some European members, most of whom — unlike Poland — still do not meet the alliance’s target of spending 2 per cent of their economic output on defence.
“The US has always supported Europe, and if it was not for the help of the US, Europe would not have liberated itself from the German Nazi occupation,” he said.
“France is spending below 2 per cent of GDP [on defence] . . . I think it’s worth asking why certain aspects of Nato do not look as we wish. And it’s not for the lack of US commitment to the alliance, but rather the lack of reciprocity on the part of some European allies.”
As a further example of the failure of European countries to act in unison in dealing with rivals such as Russia, Mr Morawiecki cited the involvement of French business in the Nord Stream 2 project. The pipeline will bring Russian gas to Germany, and Poland has long argued that it will undermine European energy security by increasing the continent’s dependence on Russia.
“As some people bluntly say, Nord Stream 2 is paying with our European money for Russian weapons and Russian armour,” he said. “So I think it is really frustrating when we see such a project having such support from key members states of the EU.”
In recent months, Mr Macron has made a diplomatic push to repair relations with Russia. He argued that Europe should respond to Nato’s problems by becoming “autonomous in terms of military strategy and capability” and by reopening “a strategic dialogue” with Moscow.
However, Mr Morawiecki said that Nato was “the primary source of security”, for Poland, and poured cold water on the idea of a rapprochement with Russia, arguing that Europe could not “pretend nothing has happened in Ukraine, Belarus or Georgia”, countries where Moscow has intervened with varying degrees of assertiveness.
“We are very much in favour of co-operating with a peaceful and democratic Russia, but Russia is not peaceful and is quite aggressive all around them,” he said.
“President Macron is in a different position because he does not feel the hot breath of the Russian bear on his neck. I think the solidarity of the EU should be so important for all EU leaders that we should not [overlook] the reservations of other EU partners vis-à-vis Russia.”