Mr Macron criticised Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer after she insisted Europe would rely on the US and the NATO military alliance for security for decades to come. The French president said he “profoundly” disagreed with her views and dismissed them as “a historical misinterpretation”. He even went on to claim German Chancellor Angela Merkel was more likely to agree with him than her own defence minister.
The French President said: “I profoundly disagree, with the opinion piece signed by the German Minister of Defence. I think that it is a historical misinterpretation.
“Fortunately, if I understood things correctly, the Chancellor does not share this point of view.
“The United States will only respect us as allies if we are earnest, and if we are sovereign with respect to our defence.
“Therefore, I think that, on the contrary, the changeover of administration in America is an opportunity to pursue, in a totally peaceful and calm manner, what allies need to understand among themselves, which is that we need to continue to build our independence for ourselves, as the United States does for itself and as China does for itself.”
But Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer hit back at Mr Macron in a speech to the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum.
She said: “I have not heard the Chancellor saying that NATO is somehow superfluous.
“Instead, in her first statements on the newly elected American president, she made it clear once again that we have to invest in the transatlantic relationship.
“And in this respect, I agree with her.”
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The rifts within the EU widened further when Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez distanced himself from Mr Macron’s calls for an independent European defence strategy.
Mr Sanchez said he backed Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer’s view that Europe would not be able to provide for its own security without the help of the US and NATO.
He said: “I would say I am more with the German vision of international relations.”
Insiders said the row highlighted how some deep-seated differences between the EU’s two most powerful nations are bubbling to the surface in the wake of the defeat of Donald Trump whose isolationist policies helped Mr Macron promote his security agenda.
A German official said: “With the Biden victory, some hidden German-French differences come into the open again.
“It was easy to reject Trump, but the view of Washington will change with Biden.”