US to pay less into NATO budget as Macron urges deep talks

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg is to meet in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron, whose recent public statement that it is "brain dead" has shaken the military alliance. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS – NATO leaders must stop bickering over defense spending and have a deep discussion about the future of the military alliance and how ties with Russia can be improved at a summit, French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday.

Macron’s call for intensive talks on how to shore up security in Europe, cope with volatile member Turkey and restore U.S. leadership came as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Washington will pay less into the alliance’s budget from next year, with Germany filling the spending gap.

Ahead of a summit of NATO leaders in London next week, Macron held discussions with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Paris.

At a joint press conference, Macron posed a series of questions about NATO, an organization that he termed as “brain dead” just a few weeks ago, a charge that was criticized by others within the alliance.

“NATO is an organization of collective defense. Against what, against who is it defending itself? Who is our common enemy? What are our common topics? This question deserves clarifications.”

Macron said he was glad his recent comments have acted as a “wake-up call” and that it was “irresponsible” to just talk about financial and technical matters.

“A real alliance is action, decisions, not words. So, I want us to have a real dialogue among allies,” he insisted.

Macron complained that NATO’s two previous summits have focused almost exclusively on defense spending and “how to alleviate the financial cost for the United States.”