German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday doubled down on growing rancor on the continent, demanding a new European-centric military force as an alternative to NATO, just as the Trump administration launched a new rhetorical broadside against France who has made similar demands.
Ms. Merkel broached the notion of a “real, true European army,” during a speech before a session of the European Parliament, echoing calls for a similar force made by French President Emanuel Macron last week.
“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” Mr. Macron said in an interview with Europe 1 last Tuesday.
“What is really important, if we look at the developments of the past year, is that we have to work on a vision of one day creating a real, true European army,” Ms. Merkel said, virtually mimicking Mr. Macron’s demands.
“Only a stronger Europe is going to defend Europe,” she added, without mentioning the United States or the Trump administration.
It is not the first time Ms. Merkel has suggested western Europe needed to accept the fact it may have to stand alone against Russia and other near-peer adversaries. The Trump administration’s increasingly adversarial relationship with the Cold War-era NATO alliance, “we Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands,” Ms. Merkel said during a speech last May.
On Tuesday, Ms. Merkel reiterated Europe must continue to look inward for its collective defense. “Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community,” she said, noting plans to call for the creation of a new European Security Council to oversee the new Euro-centric armed force.
In Washington, Defense Secretary James Mattis reiterated that NATO remained the “cornerstone for the protection of Europe.” The Pentagon chief did not expressly condemn Mr. Macron and Mrs. Merkel’s calls for a European force, he did note the Trump administration would “fully support nations doing more to carry the load,” in terms of the continent’s collective defense.
“So we will continue to see the alliance strengthening,” he added during a joint press conference at the Pentagon with Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak Tuesday afternoon.
For his part, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker noted that any indigenous European army “will have to align with NATO forces” and not be in opposition to or competition with the U.S. or its allies in NATO.
Ms. Merkel’s comments came hours after Mr. Trump tweeted that the notion of a European army was “very insulting,” and that before any such effort was undertaken by European powers, those leaders “should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidizes greatly!”
Mr. Trump also used social media to deride Mr. Macron’s leadership in France since winning the presidency last May, and the country’s history during World War I and World War II.
“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along,” he tweeted Tuesday.
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