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June 20, 2008 |  7 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Transatlantic Press Round-up

France Adopts a Multilateral Defense Policy

Transatlantic Press Round-up: The 2008 White Paper sets the tone for the next decade of French defense policy. Although France’s “loss of independence” is controversial, many welcome the progress towards synchronization of the French, European, and transatlantic security and defense strategies.

The French White Paper on defense and national security presented by President Sarkozy on June 17 provides the country with a new military and security strategy intended to modernize and rationalize the French approach to defense, security, and foreign policy.

Despite undergoing revision in 1994, France's military strategy was still organized as a response to the challenges of the Cold War. In an attempt to address the threats of this century and adapt to a new international order, France is now moving away from its distinctive independent course. There is no plan, however, to relinquish control of the nuclear deterrent or the command of armed forces.

The new policy includes plans for a reduction of defense personnel, a restructuring of the defense estate, and an improvement of coordination. The focus is on national defense and intelligence activities. Yet from a foreign policy perspective, the paper's most important provisions concern the reintegration of France into NATO 's military command structure and the furthering of European defense policy and cooperation.

The commentaries and analyses listed below discuss the military, diplomatic and financial implications of the French White Paper and shed light on some of the controversies that have arisen. The opinions are drawn from a selection of French, American, British, and German sources.


Le Monde
: La defense entre recentrage et alignement


In a critical assessment of the French White Paper, Louis Gautier argues that despite providing for more coherence in practice, other aspects of the Paper, such as the articles concerning NATO reintegration and European integration, are merely products of political maneuver.

  • Instead of offering guidelines for future decisions, the White Paper reflects the President's present position. He consistently influenced and disrupted the commission with his public announcements regarding NATO, dissuasion, Afghanistan, Africa and the French approach to terrorism.
  • Yet the White Paper does provide for a more coherent policy. When compared to the earlier approach of which the scope was too broad, the new strategy will enable concentration on major issues, a better screening of priorities, and a focus on strategic interests.
  • Although European defense should be prioritized, the articles dealing with this dimension of French defense policy do not do justice to European ambitions in this field.
  • In contrast, due to its symbolic significance, France's much less important intention to reintegrate NATO has been paid a great deal of attention. In fact, this move does not even present any concrete interest for either party at this stage.
  • As a matter of fact, rejoining NATO may be counterproductive since this move bears heavy meaning for those in Moscow and Beijing who still perceive NATO as the West's spearhead. From this perspective, the White Paper merely appears as a tool for Sarkozy to zealously attempt transatlantic alignment.


The New York Times
: In defense policy, France turns to US and Europe

This editorial welcomes France's adoption of a more modern, effective, and outward looking defense strategy which should allow for increased collaboration.

  • The White Paper outlines a plan for a smaller, more efficient, and increasingly cost-effective French army. France will be better equipped to address new threats.
  • The outcome of the new strategy should enable France and the EU to act alone and be taken more seriously on the international stage. France should therefore adopt a less bilateral approach and intensify cooperation with the EU, NATO, and regional organizations even if it maintains its independent nuclear program on the side.
  • The fact that Sarkozy wanted progress and rapprochement within NATO to run parallel to progress within EU was initially a problem for the US. The last few months have shown the EU and NATO are best complementing rather than competing with one another.


Financial Times
: Knowledge holds the key to French defence

For Francois Heisbourg, France's downsizing of field operations in favour of intelligence activities presents advantages both for France's approach to new threats and its cooperation with partners.

  • While prevention is meant to enable a more cost-effective defense and security policy, increased focus on intelligence is intended to turn France into a valuable asset for international partners.
  • The setting of new priorities does not mean nuclear deterrence is going to end. In the words of Sir Michael Howard: "the nuclear dragon may be sleeping, but it is certainly not dead."


Time:
Sarkozy makes eyes at NATO

Leo Cendrowicz interprets the French White Paper as a strategy to strengthen EU defense and an attempt to substantially reduce French defense expenses.

  • Sarkozy's move to reintegrate NATO is merely strategic since it will allow France to capitalize on its transatlantic approach and "find stronger backing for EU defense projects among NATO's European members."
  • At the same time however, this decision has been met with the French public's opposition - a vehement group of army generals in particular, are argueing that France will be weakened by the reduction of its armed forces.
  • He quotes Daniel Korski who argues that the establishment is not prepared to admit the real reason for renouncing so-called independence: France's inability to shoulder alone any longer the financial burden of an independent defense policy.


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
: Eine neue Verteidigungsdoktrin

France's new White Paper will enable France to cut military costs and modernize its army. Progress on the European front is promising in theory but could prove disappointing in practice.

  • France's new defense and security strategy will enable the country to meet the new challenges of transnational terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Since the White Paper does not provide for an increase in military budget, the new approach is an attempt to effect the simultaneous modernization and rationalization of the army.
  • Having secured US approval for progress on the level of European defense, France has agreed to reintegrate the NATO command structure. Regarding European defense, however, progress needs to be made at the level of implementation because the concept remains much more impressive on paper than in reality.

This press round-up was prepared by members of the Atlantic Community editorial team.

Related materials from the Atlantic Community:

 

 

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Tags: | Defense | NATO | ESDP | France |
 
Comments
Marek  Swierczynski

June 24, 2008

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France's long isolation from NATO military and a deeply-rooted mistrust towards the US, left it almost alone in terms of high-end defence programs, developed today either by the US companies or in multinational co-operation. When it comes to modernization, France does not have much to offer to her own armed forces. In multi-role fighters for instance, the US have F/A-22 Raptors and the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 Lightning II, which already became the future fighter of 10 air forces worldwide, including the RAF. France's Rafale - the newest jet in inventory - is equivalent to Eurofighter Typhoon but lacks some important features of the Raptor or the JSF. In the Navy, France's problems with the only aircraft carrier "Charles de Gaulle" became something of an anecdote. The country plans to develop new carriers but seems to be less advanced in that that Great Britain, which is to buy two big boats to operate the naval version of the F-35 from them. In strategic airlift, France is like the rest of continental Europe, lagging behind. It has ordered 50 A400M's but done little to keep the project in schedule. And so forth... If France wants to re-direct itself towards NATO again, it would have to invest first to offer what the Alliance needs most. By coincidence it is what France most lacks.
Tags: | NATO | France |
 
Unregistered User

June 24, 2008

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@Marek Swierczynski: so if I understand you right, France is in the "developing country" department and will have to modernize a lot before it can join Nato? Can`t say I agree with you. Modernization is not the problem. Command structures and integration are (a little bit, though not that much).

Concerning the points you made about Rafale, Charles de Gaulle and the Airbus A400 programs:

- Rafale: Rafale has put the French aeronautical industry way ahead of most countries. Technologically, the advances have been massive, and I´m not only speaking of aerodynamics, but also of avionics, armament, cost/use ratio etc. The simple fact that France has built a fighter airplane capable of naval operations on its own ranks it way up there with most other members of Nato when it comes to aeronautical technology. Rafale is absolutely capable of covering the French and Nato needs when it comes to strike fighters. It has proven so time and again in Afghanistan (unlike the JSF which is still in development, partly due to massive rows between the Brits and the Americans about withholding crucial technological information). JSF is also a multirole fighter. It is designed for naval and fighter support operations mainly, being a V/STOL plane designed to replace the Harrier. And apart from the fact that it can take off vertically and has some (limited) stealth capability, it does not present any absolutely decisive technological advantages over Rafale or Typhoon. Incidentally, none of these planes, are as advanced as the F22 Raptor anyway. None are even remotely as expensive either, which is a very important factor in operations nowadays.

- Charles de Gaulle: yes, of course the Charles de Gaulle had teething problems. Like any warship built from scratch. This is not the real issue. The real issue is that there´s only one carrier in France, which makes it impossible to have a carrier in constant operation when Charles de Gaulle has to undergo maintenance. That´s also the reason why France was in negotiation to build a second carrier in cooperation with the Brits (as opposed to "from the Brits" as you seem to be inferring), who will build their own carriers for the JSF fighters. The idea was that with both nations working together, the development costs would be cut. The problem, however, was not one of technology, but the fact that France was at first trying to build a second nuclear powered vessel. The Brits weren`t and so the nuclear propulsion system was abandoned for the joint project. Therefore a big part of the French technological advance was wasted.

Currently, the joint project has been put on ice by Sarkozy, mainly because of the fact he wants to reexamine the nuclear option for the French carrier (financial reasons; it could be less expensive for France to go for the nuclear option in the long run, or perhaps scrap the second carrier project for good). So the problem is not a lack in French technology, it is a lack in common goals between Britain and France (Britain wants to stick with conventional propulsion). It is also an issue of timetables. Britain needs the new vessels by 2012 or thereabouts, while the French aren´t in that much of a hurry.

- the A400: pardon me, but the A400 is one of the prime examples of advanced European (not only French) technology. And no, the French are not solely responsible for the construction delays. The delays are due to problems with the engine, which is a joint project by German, Spanish, British and French propulsion firms.

So how would France need to invest more in technology in order to join Nato? France would already be one of the technologically advanced nations in Nato.
The problem is one of command integration and harmonization of operational procedures. This is already being done all the time. Case in point: the French fleet air arm has been operating with the US Navy for years now, to the point that American naval aviation squadrons could operate from Charles de Gaulle and French squadrons from any American carrier with no major problem. Try that with other Nato nations and see if it works. Good luck to you.
For all intents and purposes, France is already integrated in Nato. All Sarkozy did is acknowledge that fact (for political, not military reasons).

As for the allegation that continental Europe is somehow "lagging behind" non-continental Europe (by that I can only assume you mean Britain), I cannot agree to that either. You seem to be forgetting quite a few major "continental" projects which are far more advanced than anything the Brits have done on their own ( one prime example being the new German attack submarines which are more advanced than anything even the Americans have, or the French Lafayette class frigates which are quite as capable as the equivalent British or American vessels). Actually, I´m pretty sure the Brits themselves would not view themselves as being generally "superior" in military development. And compared to the US defense budget and the American military, all European militaries, continental or not, are small fry anyway.

Now, concerning that white book: the big problem with the white book is not only the re-joining of Nato, it is also the reaction of the French military to the rather drastic personnel cuts Sarkozy is proposing. According to the white book, he will cut around 55.000 jobs in the French military, and that, of course, angers quite a few people (including a few generals who are "not amused", if I may cite a well-known non-continental european monarch ;-)).
IMO, one very positive thing in the white book (and I am by no means a big fan of Sarkozy´s) is the idea of putting a bigger emphasis on intelligence. Now that is sorely needed in my opinion. The real problems of the future will not be solved by large-scale military intervention, as Iraq and possibly Afghanistan have shown. They will be solved by intelligence work and small-scale, police-type, actions. ´The money spent in that department will buy the western nations tons more security than money spent on the military ever could.

 
Vitalii  Martyniuk

June 26, 2008

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France developed very profound necessary for its security document. The White Paper gives answer for many problems of French security and defense. But many positions are linked to the Lisbon Treaty stopped by Ireland. This treaty would deepen and spread cooperation between EU members in security and defense sphere to higher level. It would promote European military integration. This basis was taken into count in the new French White Paper, namely in Chapter 4 “European Ambitions”. If the Lisbon Treaty is blocked, France will have difficulties to fulfill European obligations under the White Paper. So, France should do its best to find a decision to resolve the crisis situation after the Irish referendum. It seems Mr. Sarkozy is going to use all his abilities to reach compromises during an enough short period from the visit in Dublin in June to the next EU summit in October.
Another aspect: France is going to reenter NATO military structures if the European Security and Defense Policy is developed to the level of NATO pillar in Europe. To what necessary level should ESDP be developed for reentering France in NATO? May we say that France won’t rejoin NATO military structures if the Lisbon Treaty and ESDP, as a result, are blocked? I am not sure. The French authorities stated France will follow its priorities for EU Presidency and will develop ESDP in any case. So, this condition could be met and France could rejoin NATO military structures.
On my opinion, France will find solution for the Lisbon treaty and will develop ESDP at the same time because it has strategic goals fixed by the French White Paper on defence and national security.
Tags: | European Security |
 
Unregistered User

June 27, 2008

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I don't share at all the "Le Monde" view

I think Sarkozy is pursuing his political agenda for what he has been elected :

drastic ECONOMY cuts in the administrative non-useful staff.

As reintegrating NATO, it's not to become uniquely part of the "smart" club, it is mainly because France can't afford her army in the present conditions anymore : she has to renew the old material, such as planes, tanks... get modern technologies... it has a cost, that the state budget can't afford without lightening the mobile part of it : the staff.

it is also because she is rejoining NATO that France can't afford to pay military wages for her own defense and for her NATO participation at the same time.

Nato also allows her to be a up to day new training aera, with modern arms, emulation between the participants,.(anyway better for the moral of the troops, than staying in offices, playing cards or on computers, awaiting an hypothetic conflict.

What is Sarko's agenda, behind that ? may-be, reconcentrate the EU Nato forces as a counterpart of the Americans' for the definition of the objectives.

Anyway, I see there the economical agenda first. Sarko is not known for being a great politician
 
Unregistered User

June 27, 2008

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http://archos.kewego.fr/video/iLyROoafYwOa.html

the Rafale on show

"France's Rafale - the newest jet in inventory - is equivalent to Eurofighter Typhoon but lacks some important features of the Raptor or the JSF"

It is admitted that the Brits made lot of avertising for their plane, while Dassault keeps many secrets on the rafale aptitudes
 
Ilyas M. Mohsin

June 29, 2008

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While developing a harmony of approach, generally, between NATO/ EU appears to be the need of the hour, one can't overlook the genuine points raised by Le Monde.
France pulled out of NATO to bolster her 'independent' foreign policy in those difficult times. As against that the other west european countries, including UK, generally, clung to the US, perhaps beacuse of the Soviet threat etc. France' proposed re-integartion into NATO would tend to make her fall in line like the others. This may be a correct switch-over as it is mainly dictated by economic consdoerations inter alia with the new ground realities in the startegic sphere. Howver, its sincere implementation has a cost as Russia and China are also calling shots in the world every now and then, thanks to the weakening of US position a la Afghainstan/ Iraq quagmires.
 
Unregistered User

July 16, 2008

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"In an attempt to address the threats of this century and adapt to a new international order, France is now moving away from its distinctive independent course."

I can' t follow these arguments.

Frankreich unter President Sarkozy modernisiert seine Politik. Seine Ausrichtung und auch Stoßrichtung sollen mit den Mitteln der state of the art Waffen- und Informations-technologien erfolgen. Eigentlich auch nicht neu, höchstens, dass die EDA konsequent fortgeführt wird.

Seine aircraft carriers sind im übrigen nicht dermaßen dimensioniert, dass daraus unabhängige Vorgehen erwachsen. Sie melden Ansprüche an.

Sarkozy's Politk ist dem Bündnis angemessen. Es braucht den scheinbar unabhängigen Partner, der durchaus das Bündnis zu schätzen weiß und sich seiner Mittel bedient. Die vermeintliche Unabhängigkeit Frankreich erlaubt das Bündnis flexibel zu halten.
 

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