Cracks In NATO? France Opposes US’ ‘Global Policing’ Policies; Not Keen To Poke Nose Into Taiwan, China Conflict

OPED By Gp Cpt TP Srivastava

“The bipartisan amendment to the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act would not allow the president to withdraw from NATO without congressional approval, requiring two-thirds of senators to vote for withdrawal.”

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Recent US Decision On Quitting NATO

On July 19, 2023, US Senate admitted the Kaine-Rubio amendment, which prohibits POTUS (US President) from unilaterally deciding and withdrawing from NATO until it is approved by a two-thirds majority, both in the House and Senate.

This decision comes in the wake of the probable and possible return of Donald Trump to the White House. It may be recalled that Trump had told US allies, “I will not protect you from Russia,” and added that the US would withdraw from NATO unless all NATO members spent at least 2% or more of their respective GDP on defense.

Although his proposal was accepted even in 2023, quite a few NATO members have not met the goal.

While the legislation might get through the Senate, the main hurdle will be when it is discussed in the Republican-held house during negotiations over the final defense bill.

Apprehensions Of NATO Alliance

President Macron of France has been most vocal and critical about US hegemony over NATO affairs. During an interview in July 2018, ahead of the NATO London summit, Macron said, “The bloc was undergoing ‘brain death.'”

His remarks were praised as ‘golden words’ by Russia. His outburst followed Donald Trump’s decision to unilateral withdrawal from Syria.

Macron went on to add: “European countries could no longer rely on America to defend NATO strategically and politically. We need to recognize that we have a problem. We should reassess the reality of what NATO is in light of the commitment of the United States. There is no coordination whatsoever of strategic decision-making between the US and its NATO allies.”

Ukraine’s Concerns

Ukrainian President Zelensky exposed the brittleness and fragility of the alliance by stating that Ukraine was suffering Russian aggression due to an inappropriate political decision taken by NATO – opposition to Ukraine’s NATO membership by then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008.

Both leaders were instrumental in blocking Ukraine’s entry into NATO military alliance held in Bucharest, Romania.

Zelenskyy called out both former leaders for reportedly blocking Ukraine’s admission to the NATO military alliance during a summit in Bucharest, Romania, that year.

Vilnius Summit

The recently held summit at Vilnius, Lithuania, was notable for what it failed to achieve rather than what it did achieve.

At the end of the summit, a few thousand-word communiqué was issued by NATO. But it failed to address the most important and burning issue of embracing Ukraine in the NATO fold—a vague statement saying that Ukraine’s NATO membership will be considered when ‘conditions’ are met. The “conditions” were not specified.

Fragile And Brittle Coalition

Fragility, brittleness, and uncertainty among NATO nations were evident on account of the following:

  • Although all NATO members agreed to spend at least 2% of their respective GDP on defense (as demanded and directed by POTUS Donald Trump in 2018), current spending by European Allies is about US$375 Billion.
  • As of 2023, 20 alliance partners out of 32 do not meet the above criteria. The communique clearly states that allies must spend more than 2% of their GDP to meet the modernization program essential to meet emerging threats.
  • The next summit due in Washington in 2024 will discuss the issue of 2% metrics. Burden sharing of NATO expenses will be high on the agenda. Quite a few alliance partners have categorically said that details of burden sharing model should be shared with all members.
  • There is no fixed timeline for considering Ukraine’s application for NATO membership.

Effect Of Russian Offensive Against Ukraine

Russian offensive against Ukraine continues unabated. Russia has already called it a war against NATO. In their latest communiqué issued a few days ago, Russia has unequivocally stated that all shipping bound for Ukrainian ports will be considered potential carriers of military cargo and that Russia reserves the right to attack these ships.

Moscow has already pulled out of a UN-brokered deal, which allowed Ukrainian ships to be used for grain export. Implications of such a Russian decision convey a blockade of shipping in the Black Sea, which will have worldwide ramifications on food grains’ availability and price escalation.

NATO Alliance Members’ Views On Taiwan

NATO headquarters in Brussels issued a document dealing with the new strategic concept in June 2023. NATO has described China as challenging the alliance’s interests, security, and values. It has called China an economic and military power that maintains opacity about its strategy, intentions, and military build-up.

The above statement reflects the paradigm shift of NATO’s view on threat perception. NATO views China as a greater threat than Russia. This issue has caused visible fissures among NATO alliance countries. While most have chosen to remain silent but French President Macron has been vocal and to the point.

He said concerning the sensitive Taiwan issue: “The question we need to answer, as Europeans, is: Is it in our interest to accelerate a crisis on Taiwan? No. The worst thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the US agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”

Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron

Although Washington has no diplomatic contact with Taiwan and supports the One China policy, it supports Taiwan as a separate entity outside China’s domain. During the past 12 months, the situation has worsened, especially after Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August last year, and the chances of a military conflict cannot be ruled out.

The US has upped the ante by permanently deploying US Navy’s nuclear submarine near South Korea on the pretext of protecting South Korea from a possible nuclear threat from North Korea.

USS Kentucky, an Ohio class submarine capable of carrying up to 32 nuclear-tipped SSMs, arrived at the South Korean port of Busan on July 18, 2023. Incidentally, the last such visit by a US nuclear submarine to South Korea was in 1980.

French View

France is categoric in stating that Taiwan is an internal issue of China. It does not want to be a part of any tension between the US and China on the Taiwan issue.

President Macron advocates the Doctrine of Strategic Autonomy outside of US influence. The AUKUS treaty and the cancellation of a submarine deal between France and Australia are significant aspects of the divergence of views between the USA and France.

Only recently, President Macron visited China on a state visit. His prophetic words after concluding his visit to China must not be lost sight of by the world, NATO in particular.

He said, “Europeans cannot resolve the crisis in Ukraine. How can we credibly say over the Taiwan issue, ‘Watch out, if you do something wrong, we will be there?”

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Europe is unlikely to support the US agenda of being a ‘global policeman.’ European nations will have to take care of their security.

Any escalation of hostilities with China and Russia will invariably affect Europe. Are the European countries ready to suffer because of US hostility towards China and Russia, irrespective of the reasons?

The emergence of dissent among main European nations with US hegemony on deciding NATO policies has made the NATO alliance fragile and brittle, even though membership has increased from 12 to 31, with Sweden set to join as the 32nd nation shortly.

  • Gp Cpt TP Srivastava (Retd) is an ex-NDA who flew MiG-21 and 29. He is a qualified flying instructor. He commanded the MiG-21 squadron. He is a directing staff at DSSC Wellington and chief instructor at the College of Air Warfare. VIEWS PERSONAL OF THE AUTHOR
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