The United States and Germany are reaffirming the strategic partnership and alliance under NATO, rejecting French President Emmanuel Macron's view that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is experiencing "brain death."
"I think NATO remains an important, critical, perhaps historically, one of the most critical strategic partnerships in all of recorded history," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday at Leipzig, Germany, during a news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
"I do not think NATO is brain-dead," added Maas.
Maas's comment followed that of German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauerm, who said Germany aimed to meet NATO spending targets by 2031.
'Not my point of view'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Macron had chosen drastic words, adding "that is not my point of view regarding the cooperation within NATO."
In an interview with The Economist, the French president said European nations could no longer rely on the U.S. to defend allies.
"What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO," Macron was quoted as saying. He noted the U.S. decision to pull troops from northeast Syria had surprised many NATO partners.
Turkey, another NATO member, saw the U.S. troop withdrawal from northeast Syria as a green light to launch a military incursion into the region, ousting the U.S.-allied and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces from the border area.
Pompeo said the U.S. would continue to "monitor the cease-fire" brokered by Washington in the region and hold human rights violators there accountable.
"We're investigating allegations of war crimes and we'll continue to deliver on our humanitarian mission there," the U.S. secretary of state said Thursday.
Pompeo was in Germany to attend events marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, underscoring what U.S. officials said was the need for continuing a strengthened trans-Atlantic partnership.
Three decades ago, on Oct. 9, residents of Leipzig took to the streets under the banners of "We Want Change," sparking peaceful protests that would lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall a few weeks later.
The chief U.S. diplomat, who served as a U.S. Army officer during the Cold War, visited American troops in Grafenwohr and Vilseck earlier Thursday.
Pompeo's meetings this week with German leaders come days after China rolled out one of the world's largest 5G mobile communications networks.
The U.S. is waging a wide-ranging campaign to block Huawei, a leading Chinese telecom equipment vendor, citing security threats. U.S. officials have threatened to roll back intelligence sharing with European allies that use the Chinese company's equipment.
But there appear to be divisions among leaders in Germany. In a move seen as counter to U.S. warnings, Merkel is allowing Huawei to take part in the rollout of Germany's 5G networks. The country's intelligence community is concerned about the security risks. Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany's foreign intelligence service, recently told the country's legislators that Huawei "cannot be trusted fully."
Pompeo said Thursday, "This isn't just a simple decision."
"It's complicated, but it comes in the face of the challenges that are presented by the Chinese Communist Party," added the top U.S. diplomat.
Experts echo warnings
Experts said Kahl's warnings should not be taken lightly.
"They reflect the warnings that national security experts in the U.S. have been shouting from the hills. These warnings were further echoed and validated in the German and EU assessments. Hopefully, the German government will take these cautions seriously and change course," said Nate Snyder, a senior adviser with consulting firm Cambridge Global Advisors and a former counterterrorism official during the Obama administration.
"There is no scenario where the vulnerabilities identified in the Huawei 5G network can be mitigated. Once there is infiltration of Huawei hardware or software, it cannot be undone. The best way to manage this risk is to not take it," Snyder said.