It will not be easy. Between Emmanuel Macron and his “braindead” of an organisation whose 70th birthday we are celebrating; Recep Erdogan, who has just replied that it’s the pot calling the kettle black and it is Mr Macron who is braindead; Donald Trump, who has nothing to do with this Alliance which he judges to be too expensive; and the countries leaving the Soviet bloc who still want to believe in the American defensive umbrella, because Russia is doing all it can to hassle them: this NATO summit will not be a walk in the rose garden.
On Tuesday and Wednesday in London, it is not even certain that they will stay away from calling each other names, because nobody wants to quit this Organisation of the North Atlantic Treaty, the NATO, even less to dissolve it, but nobody knows any more how to redefine it, what to have it to do and how.
Contrary to their president, the United States want to keep it alive for preserving their European alliances. The Baltics and the Poles dream that it becomes once again as close and dear to the Americans as it had been during the Cold War. If it were to disappear, the Turkish would feel too dependent on their new Russian ally. The Germans, the Italians, the Scandinavians, the Spanish, the Dutch and even the French do not want to bury it before the European Union has a credible Defence at its disposal; in other words not for a long time. It is for all these quite different reasons that nobody will call for the birthday to be turned into a funeral. They will even join their voices in praising the cement of the Western camp that was able to contain the Soviet Union – but what to do now?
Emmanuel Macron will probably repeat what he keeps drilling since his diagnosis of “advanced stage coma” which he now requalified as a “wake up call” to avoid new criticism. He will say again, equally firmly and kindly, that the most evident menace today comes from the South and its jihadists, and so NATO should come to support the French armies in the Sahel and that if we admit that the United States have all the right reasons to ask for a better redistribution of military efforts between the two sides of the Atlantic, then Europe must equip itself with a Common Defence, as a European pillar of the Atlantic alliance.
The conclusion is compelling. No solid argument could be brought up against it, except…
Except that the United States do not want a European Union that becomes their equal, and they do not want either, with Donald Trump on top, to engage in the Sahel but rather to disengage everywhere; and a large number of member states of the Union, not only the former Soviet satellites, are afraid that the American disengagement would only be accelerated by a Europe of Defence, whose necessity, however, we are all aware of.
Well, the most likely outcome is that we will try not to decide anything before they know whether or not Donald Trump wins another mandate and then they will move, in bitterness or smiles, in fear or reassurance, towards a new Atlantic alliance, whose both circles will have their privileged areas of presence and intervention.
This is the rosy hypothesis; the most desirable but by no means certain.