In November, French President Emmanuel Macron told The Economist that NATO so lacked direction that it was suffering “brain death.” The remark drew criticism from both European and U.S. officials, but when the leaders of NATO member states met in London on December 4, Macron’s words served as a catalyst. Indeed, as Macron said after the summit, his comments were like a giant “icebreaker,” making a lot of noise but clearing the way for the alliance to plow forward.

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This article was originally published in Foreign Affairs.