France's Macron: 'I do believe in NATO'

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French President Emmanuel Macron takes part in an Online G7 meeting

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday his concept of "European strategic autonomy" in the defence sector did not mean he wanted to drift apart from the United States but that it would make Europe a more reliable partner and strengthen NATO.

"I do believe in NATO," Macron said during the Munich Security Conference, more than a year after causing confusion among other members of the transatlantic military alliance by saying NATO was "experiencing brain death".

"I do believe NATO needs a new political momentum and clarification of its strategic concept. NATO needs a more political approach," he added, speaking after the first G7 meeting attended by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Since his election in 2017, Macron has been pushing for the European Union to stand on its own feet when it comes to security, and no longer rely solely on U.S. military protection inherited from World War Two.

His comments on NATO's "brain death", coupled with his decision to seek more cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, had caused consternation among some European allies, especially in eastern Europe, which sees the United States as the only credible protection from neighbouring Russia.

"I do believe the best possible involvement of Europe within NATO is to be much more in charge of its own security," Macron said on Friday.

All of that would make NATO "even stronger than before," the French leader added.

(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Alison Williams and Jonathan Oatis)