No, Kremlin, NATO is not led by one country

On February 8, French President Emmanuel Macron met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Almost immediately afterwards, confusion ensued due to conflicting claims by Macron and the Kremlin about what had been agreed.

Macron, ahead of his subsequent meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Putin had assured there would be no military escalation. A French official later reported that Russian troops in Belarus, apparently there for joint exercises, would return to their bases in Russia once their exercises were completed on February 20.

The Kremlin later denied both allegations.

Addressing Financial Times articles on the French claims, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said:

“Of course, the Financial Times was wrong, essentially wrong. Given the current situation, Moscow and Paris could not have reached an agreement. It is simply impossible.”

Peskov suggested that France could not have concluded such agreements.

“Because France is both a member of the EU and currently holds the presidency of the EU, moreover, France is a member of NATO, where it does not hold the leadership – another country holds the leadership of this bloc,” he said. “So what kind of deals can you talk about? »

For one thing, it’s hard to know what really happened between Putin and Macron without a public transcript. On the other hand, while Peskov is right that France cannot speak on behalf of NATO, his assertion that the leadership of NATO is held by “another country” is false.

No country in the 30-member alliance “holds the leadership of this bloc”. Decision-making is by consensus after consultation and discussion among all member states. Any member of NATO can veto a decision. This has happened several times: most recently, Hungary vetoed Ukraine’s application to join NATO’s Cyber ​​Defense Center.

Russian officials have long portrayed NATO as being led by the United States, its biggest contributor, but that is not true.

In 2002, the Bush administration began calling for military action against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. While several NATO members, including the UK, Poland and Spain, joined the US-led coalition that eventually invaded Iraq in 2003, core NATO members, France and Germany, opposed military action against Iraq and did not contribute forces.

Turkey, also a member of NATO, refused to let US military forces pass through its territory to invade Iraq. Despite the participation of some NATO member states, the organization as a whole played no role in the decision to invade Iraq or in the invasion itself.

Thus, if France cannot speak unilaterally on behalf of NATO, neither can any other member state of the alliance.

Since last fall, Russia has deployed more than 130,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders. At the same time, President Putin and Russian diplomats have repeatedly called for “security guarantees”, in particular an agreement banning Ukraine from joining NATO. So far, NATO and EU leaders have remained firm in their refusal to change NATO’s open door policy.

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