LONDON: US President Donald Trump has accused his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron of being “nasty” for saying Nato was “brain dead”.
Trump is in London for a summit marking the Western military alliance’s 70th anniversary. The US president said Nato served a great purpose, and Macron’s remarks had been “very insulting”.
He also said he could see France “breaking off” from Nato, but did not explain why. However, later, at a joint press conference with Macron, Trump struck a warmer tone, saying “we have a big great relationship and I am sure that within a short period of time things will be looking very rosy”.
Macron said he knew his comments about Nato “shook up” a lot of people, but added that he stood by them.
Earlier, at a news conference with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President Trump said Nato “serves a great purpose”, but was then asked what he thought about Macron’s statements. He said he thought the French leader had been “very disrespectful” to other alliance members. “It is a very, very nasty statement. I think they have a very high unemployment rate in France. France is not doing well economically at all,” he said.
“It is a very tough statement to make when you have such difficulty in France when you look at what is going on. They have had a very rough year. You just can’t go around making statements like that about Nato. It is very disrespectful.”
France has an unemployment rate of about 8.5% – its lowest level in 10 years, although higher than the EU average of 6.3%.
Trump added: “Nobody needs Nato more than France… the US benefits the least. It’s a very dangerous statement for them to make. I’m looking at him [ Macron] and I’m saying that he needs protection more than anybody, and I see him breaking off [from Nato]. So I’m a little surprised at that.”
Trump also reiterated his longstanding complaint that many other Nato countries were still not contributing enough financially. Stoltenberg praised Trump’s “leadership on defence spending”, saying it was having a real impact.
“Since 2016, Canada and European allies have added $130bn more to the defence budget, and this number will increase to $400bn by 2024,” he said. “This is unprecedented, this is making Nato stronger, and it shows that this alliance is adapting, responding when the world is changing.”