PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday (Feb 19) his concept of "European strategic autonomy" in the defence sector did not mean he wanted to drift apart from the United States but that it would make Europe a more reliable partner and strengthen NATO.
"I do believe in NATO," Macron said during the Munich Security Conference, more than a year after causing confusion among other members of the transatlantic military alliance by saying NATO was "experiencing brain death".
"I do believe NATO needs a new political momentum and clarification of its strategic concept. NATO needs a more political approach," he added, speaking after the first G7 meeting attended by US President Joe Biden.
Since his election in 2017, Macron has been pushing for the European Union to stand on its own feet when it comes to security, and no longer rely solely on US military protection inherited from World War Two.
His comments on NATO's "brain death", coupled with his decision to seek more cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, had caused consternation among some European allies, especially in eastern Europe, which sees the United States as the only credible protection from neighbouring Russia.
"I do believe the best possible involvement of Europe within NATO is to be much more in charge of its own security," Macron said on Friday.
All of that would make NATO "even stronger than before," the French leader added.
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"UNSHAKEABLE" US COMMITMENT
Biden said the US commitment to the NATO alliance was "unshakeable" and promised to observe the principle that an attack on one member was an attack on all.
His statement was at odds with his predecessor, Donald Trump, who called the 30-member alliance outdated and at one point suggested Washington could withdraw.
"The United States is fully committed to our NATO alliance, and I welcome your growing investment in the military capabilities that enable our shared defenses," Biden told an online session of the Munich Security Conference.
"An attack on one is an attack on all. That is our unshakeable vow."
Trump administration officials had publicly hammered, and sought to shame, Germany and other NATO members for not meeting a target of spending 2 per cent of their gross domestic output on defense.
Biden's comments signaled a different approach - and one sure to be welcomed by European leaders and NATO officials.
"America's back," Biden told the security conference after his first virtual meeting with Group of Seven world leaders.
"I know the past few years have strained and tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined - determined - to re-engage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership," he said.
Biden said the US military was conducting a comprehensive review of its military posture around the world, but he had lifted orders to withdraw US troops from Germany - another decision by the Trump administration that had shocked allies.
In addition, Biden said he had lifted a cap imposed by the previous administration on the number of U..forces that could be based in Germany.