French President Emmanuel Macron was right when he said Tuesday that Europe should stop being naive and quit relying primarily on the United States for its defense. Indeed, it’s in the interests of both the United States and Europe to realize that.

In one sense, this is nothing new from Macron. He has previously called for Europe to aspire to “strategic autonomy” and has argued for a “true European army” for years. Macron evidently believes that Europe weakens itself by relying on U.S. arms and military might for its defense, and thus is unable to push for its own interests even in its own neighborhood. The recent announcement that Australia was ripping up a deal with France to build new submarines to pursue a new deal with Britain and the United States was thus only the spark that lit the fire. The kindling of fundamental strategic disagreement was laid long ago.

Traditional American thinking would resist Macron’s call. The United States has long sought to make European defense forces mere adjuncts to American power, even if it was never formal U.S. policy. During the Cold War, Europe’s militaries had the distinct and limited purpose to assist the Americans in the defense of Western Europe and were expected to do little else without U.S. tacit approval. It’s no wonder, then, that NATO’s first secretary general, Lord Hastings Ismay, famously said the alliance’s purpose was “to keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in and the Germans down.”

That may have been true once. But the end of the Cold War meant there was no longer a Soviet Union to keep out, and the expansion of NATO and the European Union to include most of the former Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe means that Russian forces are now hundreds of miles away from Western Europe. NATO’s old purpose has largely been met.

NATO has struggled ever since because American and European interests and perceptions are increasingly divergent. This first became obvious during the Iraq War, when Germany and France refused to join President George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing.” These strategic differences have expanded only further, as the old allies in Western Europe prefer to conciliate Iran rather than unequivocally back Israel; prefer a softer approach toward Russia; and openly seek a neutral stance in the standoff between the United States and China. Meanwhile, European militaries had deteriorated to the point that France and Britain needed to enlist American aid when they sought to destabilize Moammar Gaddafi’s Libyan regime in 2011. They are not much stronger today.

This is the backdrop for Macron’s remarks. Europe’s naivete, in Macron’s view, lies in believing that the United States can be persuaded to provide the military muscle behind a broadly European worldview. This is where the recent submarine deal has proved decisive, as it clearly shows that the United States is willing to disrupt its relations with Europe to pursue an alliance against China that Europe does not want to fully participate in. Hopes that President Biden would mark a turnaround from President Donald Trump’s penchant for global confrontation have been dashed. Instead, Macron rightly sees that the United States will pursue its own interests even at the expense of its stated fidelity to old allies.

Given that, it is in America’s interest for Europe to become militarily strong enough to resist Russian ambitions without significant U.S. involvement. The United States cannot meet its formal obligations to both European and Asian allies without massive rearmament. But there is no political will to increase U.S. defense spending to the level needed — roughly 5 to 6 percent of gross domestic product, comparable to spending during the Cold War — for that to happen. This means U.S. forces will increasingly be deployed to meet China, which in turn exposes a militarily supine Europe to Russian aggression. U.S. forces will also need to increasingly pull back in the Middle East and in the fight against Islamist militants in Africa, as those troops are needed to bolster defenses in Asia. We need a strong Europe to defend itself against Russia and pick up the slack in Africa.

The alternatives to this effective devolution of responsibility are unattractive. The United States could try to use economic and military power to enforce its will more effectively on the Europeans, but this would make a mockery of their democracies and independence. Maintaining the status quo is also increasingly problematic. The United States would weaken its own interests if it deployed troops in Europe and watered down its own initiatives to cajole Europe into half-hearted participation in endeavors against China. Keeping Europe down and the Americans in, to update the old saw, would dissipate U.S. power without advantage.

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The United States and Europe would both benefit from an alliance of true equals rather than maintaining the current imbalance. We are both stronger together if we are both strong separately.