In a column published by Der Spiegel magazine earlier this week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas specifically warned that “it would be a mistake if we undermined NATO.”
“Without the United States, neither Germany nor Europe will be able to effectively protect themselves,” Maas argued.
He called for strengthening Europe's defence capabilities, adding, “that's why together with France, we are working hard to build a Europe that works much closer together in security policy.”
Maas also cautioned the EU and NATO not to play against each other, calling for the creation of “a strong and sovereign Europe”.
“But we need it as part of a strong NATO and not as its replacement,” he added.
The remarks followed French President Emmanuel Macron’s interview with The Economist, in which he claimed that NATO was experiencing "brain death" and referred to a lack of coordination and US unpredictability under President Donald Trump.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was quick to respond by saying that “the French president has found rather drastic words to express his views.”
“This is not how I see the state of cooperation at NATO,” she said, adding that “NATO remains a cornerstone of our security.”
She was echoed by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg who rejected Macron’s remarks and urged the US and Europe to "work together more than we have done for decades."
Macron Floats Idea of Creating ‘Real European Army’
In November 2018, Macron insisted that the EU should have a “real European army” independent of the United States and NATO to be able to defend itself from alleged threats emanating from Washington, Beijing and Moscow.
The idea was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with Berlin and Paris starting to build a joint aircraft and combat system and inviting other European states to join.
The idea of a European Military didn’t work out too well in W.W. I or 2. But the U.S. was there for you, and always will be. All we ask is that you pay your fair share of NATO. Germany is paying 1% while the U.S. pays 4.3% of a much larger GDP - to protect Europe. Fairness!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2018
US President Donald Trump, in turn, criticised Macron's of building a pan-European military as "very insulting” , arguing that NATO countries should first pay their fair share of the alliance.
Trump has repeatedly pressed NATO member states to meet their annual defence spending obligations in the alliance, even insisting that they raise their expenditures to 4 percent of GDP — instead of the existing target of 2 percent.