Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

Reintegration of France into NATO, loss of virtual independence?

(B2) The reintegration of NATO commands in France (“normalization” in official terms) gives rise to debates as we like them in our country, a tad ideological, with some taking refuge in the flag of flouted independence , the others advancing modernity. Perhaps it would be time to return to less controversial and more realistic notions….

Independence or dependence. Indeed, France's return to NATO will not change anything in its independence of action. Or rather it will not change in its increasingly assertive bond of dependence with its Allies. When we talk about independence, obviously in this case, it is with regard to the United States. From this perspective, the best guarantee of “independence” and “autonomy” is Europe and the European Union. And if we really want to be independent, we must on the one hand leave NATO, and on the other hand abandon participation in its main operations. No one, I think, among the political leaders of the PS, the Modem or the UMP, who have spoken out recently on NATO, is capable of putting forward this type of proposal. But France is, in my opinion, more linked to its partners by its participation in the campaigns in Afghanistan and Kosovo, the two major operations of the Alliance, than by participation in command and planning bodies.

The benefits of reintegration (military, political, economic). I do not know if reintegration/normalization will allow more influence on the decisions taken by NATO. I have some doubts... In any case, it has an immediate advantage. It will give a few hundred French officers the opportunity to pursue an international career. In the long term, it will undoubtedly make it possible to further irrigate French ideas into the various circuits of NATO (assuming that French “ideas” are so specific -:). Politically, it has an undeniable advantage (and on this point, Sarkozy and Morin are right), it silences certain fears or criticisms of our European partners vis-à-vis certain European projects (EU) that France could defend (in particular the permanent military HQ of the European Union in Brussels, etc.). They will no longer be tempted to see it as a “submarine” directed against NATO. Finally, and above all, it makes it possible to further promote “made in France” in other European armies – knowing that everything that is tested and approved by NATO is the primary and essential condition for considering the purchase of a defense equipment (from navigation or missile control software to heavier equipment, including frigates and Rafales, etc.) in a number of armies of the Euro-Atlantic organization.

Supervise reintegration. Now rather than ideological debate, should we not ask ourselves the questions of the supervision of reintegration. What is reintegration for? To influence what? In which way ? First, there needs to be drastic reform of the Organization. This may seem a little disproportionate compared to the real challenges of the world today, and especially to the economic capacities of States (I will not return to the conditions of its democratic functioning mentioned in another article). Secondly, we must ask ourselves the question of the necessity of certain operations, particularly in Afghanistan (a mission which has an indirect consequence, exhaust the European armies). Finally, it is necessary to clarify what is meant by progress in the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) and in particular progress in task sharing more precise between the two organizations. I know that everyone is reluctant to do so, believing that it is not possible to sectorize the action of their organizations. But in my opinion, it's pretty easy to see where each organization brings the most benefit. To be continued…


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).