The head of NATO Jens Stoltenberg on Saturday rejected French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a European “strategic dialogue” about the role of France’s nuclear weapons, saying a “tried and tested” deterrent was already in place.
Addressing to the media at the Munich Security Conference, Stoltenberg said, “We have to remember that we have a European nuclear deterrent today — 28 allies deliver that every day and it’s not only a promise, but it’s something that has been there for decades”.
Last year, Stoltenberg clashed with Macron over the French leader’s claims NATO was suffering “brain death” in its geopolitical thinking, gave his latest suggestion a frosty reception.
“It’s tried and tested, we exercise it, and it’s institutionalised, and it is the ultimate security guarantee for Europe.” France is the EU’s only nuclear power after Brexit and Macron has championed the idea of European “strategic autonomy” — the ability to defend itself without relying on the US — though he insists on his commitment to NATO.
President Macron has been pushing for an overhaul of European Union security and defense matters in response to Brexit — Britain’s departure from the bloc.
Last week, in a key speech, Macron called for dialogue among EU countries about what role the French nuclear deterrent could play as he called for a “surge” in European defense spending.
France is a NATO member but does not make its atomic weapons available to the alliance. It has long prided itself on its independent nuclear deterrent.
Germany has particularly opposed an increased reliance on France’s stockpile as a deterrence, seeing the US nuclear umbrella as a key to its security.
In response to the NATO chief, Macron reiterated those sentiments saying, “We need a European strategy that renews us and turn us into a strategic political power”.
Last month, Macron visited Isreal where he had met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Earlier, the French president also attended a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
(With inputs from agency)