"What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO." That's the diagnosis of French President Emmanuel Macron.
In an interview with the British magazine the Economist published Thursday, Macron suggested that NATO is dying because of America's unpredictability under President Donald Trump.
He expressed doubt in the pledge, undergirding the 29-nation military alliance - that an attack on one is an attack on all.
The remarks were quickly rejected by German Chancellor Angela Merkel alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a news conference in Berlin.
(SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, SAYING: "The French president has chosen drastic words, that is not my point of view regarding the cooperation within Nato.
I think such a sweeping swipe is not necessary, even though we do have some problems and have to sort ourselves out." U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a visit to Germany marking the fall of the Berlin Wall, stressed the value of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MICHAEL POMPEO, SAYING: "I think NATO remains an important, critical, perhaps historically one of the most critical strategic partnerships in all of recorded history." But Macron is not the first NATO member to express doubts about the alliance.
President Donald Trump as a candidate called the pact 'obsolete' - a stance he reversed after his election... (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING (APRIL 12, 2017): "I said it was obsolete.
It's no longer obsolete." But the U.S. president continued to chide members for relying on the American military to prop up the defense treaty, urging them to spend more on arms and armaments.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT, DONALD TRUMP, SAYING (JULY 12, 2018): "Only five of twenty-nine countries were making their commitment and that's now changed.
The commitment was at two percent.
Ultimately that will be going up quite a bit higher than that." In the interview, Macron said the United States was showing signs of "turning its back on us," citing Trump's sudden decision last month to pull troops out of northeastern Syria without consulting European allies.
Macron's comments come a month before NATO's Dec.
4 summit in London… where NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and many allies want to project an image of unity at a time of rising Chinese military might and what NATO leaders see as Russian attempts to undermine Western democracies through cyber attacks, disinformation campaigns and covert operations.