‘Brain death’: Canada to navigate minefield as France questions NATO’s future

A brewing battle over the future of NATO could have major implications for Canada, which for decades has relied on the military alliance as a cornerstone of its security, protection and influence in the world.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to travel to London next month where recent comments by French President Emmanuel Macron questioning the viability of the alliance threaten to overshadow a celebration of NATO’s 70th birthday.

Macron, in an interview published in the Economist magazine, warned that NATO, which was established at the start of the Cold War to protect the democracies of North America and Western Europe from the Soviet Union, was suffering from “brain death.”

The French president specifically cited the recent U.S. military withdrawal from northeast Syria and Turkey’s subsequent invasion of the area — both without any consultation with fellow NATO members — as examples of a breakdown in the alliance.

The stark comments came as Macron warned that Europe must stop relying exclusively on NATO — which has been historically backed by American guarantees of protection — and prepare to defend itself.

Even before Macron’s comments, there were questions over whether the U.S. under President Donald Trump would honour its historic promise to help defend another member that comes under attack given his “America First” philosophy.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he planned to speak to Macron about his comments ahead of next month’s leaders’ summit even as Stoltenberg touted the importance of the transatlantic alliance and defended its record.

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