Dec 1, 2019

Ahead of NATO summit, Erdogan condemns Macron for "brain death" comments

Emmanuel Macron (L) with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, June 28. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a televised speech Friday that Emmanuel Macron's recent warning about NATO was a “sick and shallow” interpretation, sniping at the French president to have his own "brain death" checked, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Erdogan's attacks on Macron, whom he also called a "novice" that knows how to "show off," come just days before NATO leaders are set to meet in London for a summit.

The big picture: Macron said in a November interview that the trans-Atlantic alliance faces "brain death" because of U.S. unpredictability under President Trump and strained relations with Turkey.

  • The French and Turkish leaders have been exchanging criticism since Ankara’s offensive in northeast Syria against Kurdish forces in the region, who are backed by the U.S., France and other NATO allies.
  • Turkey has refused to back NATO's defense plan for three Baltic states and Poland until it receives political support for its incursion in northern Syria.

What they're saying: "I am talking to France's President Emmanuel Macron, and I will also say this at NATO. First of all, have your own brain death checked. These statements are suitable only to people like you who are in a state of brain death," Erdoğan said in the speech, according to Al Jazeera.

  • The French Foreign Ministry responded by summoning Turkey’s ambassador to Paris. “Let’s be clear, these are not statements, they are insults," a French presidential adviser said. "The president says things clearly. It’s up to Turkey to provide the answers that we and many allies expect."
  • “Turkey can’t take the defense plans of Poland and the Baltic countries hostage,” the adviser added.

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Trump and Macron spar over Turkey's role in NATO

Photo: Ludovic Marin/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron papered over the cracks in their relationship in a press conference Tuesday in London, but disagreed sharply over Turkey’s role in the NATO alliance.

Why it matters: Macron made waves ahead of this week’s NATO gathering by describing the alliance as unmoored and "brain dead" as a result of the U.S. pulling back and Turkey going rogue — comments Trump described Tuesday morning as “very insulting.” Trump has been agitated with Macron for weeks, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports.

Go deeperArrowDec 3, 2019

NATO allies spooked by Trump despite White House soothing

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images, Chesnot/Getty Images, Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Image, Jasper Juinen/Getty Images, and Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images.

This week's NATO meeting in London will be "a celebratory leaders' meeting," according to a White House talking point ahead of President Trump's trip. But European officials aren't betting on it, and Trump has been privately complaining about France's President Emmanuel Macron. 

Best-case scenario, for Europeans: Trump sticks to the script — taking credit for a stronger NATO and celebrating the fact that the Europeans are spending more on their defense. 

Go deeperArrowDec 1, 2019

Bipartisan senators call for sanctions against Turkey before NATO summit

An S-400 surface-to-air missile launcher in Moscow, June 25. Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Monday to sanction Turkey for violating U.S. law by testing a Russian-made S-400 air defense system in Ankara this week.

Why it matters: The senators sent the letter a day before NATO leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, convene for a summit in London on a myriad of pressing topics, including the risk posed by Turkey testing Russian missile systems.

Go deeperArrowDec 2, 2019