German defense minister hits back at Macron’s NATO criticism

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German Defense Minister: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer | Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer says ‘France was a different military culture than Germany.’

Berlin’s Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer distanced herself from Emmanuel Macron’s recent criticism of NATO, saying that while the French president wanted to replace the military alliance, Germany wants to strengthen it.

Macron said earlier this month that “what we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO” and Europe needs to up its game on defense following what he sees as a collapse of U.S.-EU strategic cooperation within the alliance.

In an interview with Welt published Sunday, Kramp-Karrenbauer said Germany agrees that there needs to be greater European cooperation on security policy, but Paris has a different perspective from Berlin.

“When France talks about more European cooperation in defense, they’re talking about strategic autonomy. The French are seeking strong European cooperation to replace NATO,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said, adding that she, on the other hand, was more concerned with the “ability to act.”

“My point is that any strengthening of European defense also strengthens NATO’s European pillar.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and a contender to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, added that “France has a different military culture than Germany.”

“That’s reflected in the latest proposals of its president. But Germany also has its interests,” she said, stressing the importance of both Berlin’s partnership with France as well as its integration into NATO.

Kramp-Karrenbauer’s comments come ahead of a CDU party conference, during which members will discuss their position on whether to exclude Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei from Germany’s rollout of the next generation of mobile network technology, known as 5G. Proponents of excluding Huawei fear spying by Beijing, which the company rejects, and Merkel has ruled out totally excluding individual companies.

Kramp-Karrenbauer said Huawei should be excluded if it does not meet the safety standards set out by the government.

“The government has determined that there should be certain safety standards that are used to check which company can participate … the question remains as to whether Huawei meets these safety standards. If this is not the case, Huawei must be excluded,” she said.

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