In New Defense Policy, France Turns To U.S. And Europe

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
New York Times
June 17, 2008
Pg. 11
By Steven Erlanger and Katrin Bennhold
PARIS — In its first new national defense policy in 14 years, France has decided that its security lies within Europe and NATO, establishing a significant shift from the country’s longstanding notions of moral and military self-sufficiency.
More than four decades ago, Charles de Gaulle, angry with American and British domination of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said France’s military integration into the alliance had been “stripped of justification.”
But now that the Soviet Union is gone and the European Union is more fully established, President Nicolas Sarkozy has decided that France is best served by participating fully with Washington and NATO, in part because the vast majority of members of the European Union are also members of the alliance.
The new military and security strategy, which Mr. Sarkozy will present in public on Tuesday after months of internal debate, calls for a smaller, more mobile French Army, with savings spent on better intelligence and modern equipment.
Building a credible European defense is a French priority, the strategy says. But French plans were damaged by the Irish rejection of a new set of rules for the 27-nation European Union that would have made it easier for members to cooperate on defense. In fact, publication of the French white paper was delayed until after the Irish referendum on the so-called Lisbon Treaty, to avoid providing the Irish with another potential reason to vote no.
The new defense doctrine seeks to prepare France and Europe for a post-Soviet world in which conventional military threats are downgraded compared with a multitude of complex, global risks, from epidemics to terrorism and cyberwarfare.
An estimated 54,000 military jobs will be cut over the next six to seven years, out of a current total of some 330,000. The cuts are politically delicate, given local and political interests, but a reduction in personnel is the only way to provide more financial room for acquisitions and training intended to create a more modern army whose threats are more likely to come from terrorism, cyberassault or missile attacks than from a traditional invasion.
A copy of the plan was provided in a briefing by senior French officials who would not allow their names to be used before Mr. Sarkozy’s speech. One of the officials said that if France and Europe were capable of acting on their own, the United States would take them more seriously.
The officials also emphasized that France’s operational needs had changed since the last white paper, in 1994, and that France would concentrate less on bilateral military actions in Africa, for instance, than on joint operations with the European Union, NATO or regional organizations like the African Union.
Mr. Sarkozy created political waves here when he first proposed that France reintegrate into the military wing of NATO, so long as there was “parallel progress” in developing a European defense and security policy that could carry out European Union missions outside the rubric of the American-led Atlantic alliance.
It was a rejection not only of Gaullism, but also of the generally anti-interventionist and anti-Bush policies of the opposition Socialist Party.
“Today there’s no longer a raison d’être” to remain outside NATO, one official said. The alliance has changed considerably with new members in the last decade, the official said, and with new peacekeeping missions in places like Afghanistan and Kosovo. “We see the trans-Atlantic relationship as a key to European security and French security,” he said, emphasizing that the European Union and NATO were now seen as “complementary,” not as rivals.
Still, officials made it clear that France would preserve its independent nuclear deterrent outside of any alliance structure, and that France would not allow its troops to serve permanently under any foreign officer, even in peacetime.
France’s plan foresees raising the budget for military acquisitions, for example, by more than 16 percent, without immediately raising spending on defense. It also envisions spending twice as much on space defense, with the intention of creating a space-based early warning system against missile attacks. A decision to build another expensive aircraft carrier will be postponed, and spending on intelligence, which is to be reorganized under a single chief, is also expected to double.
The plan also sets a new requirement of at least 30,000 French soldiers able to be deployed in combat within six months, part of the larger French goal of helping to make a European defense capability both credible and functional. Europe’s goal, far from being realized, is to have 60,000 soldiers able to be deployed within a year.