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G. Longuet. France supports NATO action. German reluctance

After “NATO is not the appropriate tool” in the face of the Libyan crisis by Alain Juppé, Gérard Longuet, the new French Minister of Defense, wanted to reposition the cursor and make a small “explanation” of the text in front of a few journalists gathered in a large hotel in Brussels, at a (very) late hour in the evening. He also confirmed that there were strong reservations within the Alliance… with Germany.

But if NATO is “appropriate”! What needed to be understood

« It's not that NATO isn't the right tool.", explained the Minister, is that it is not appropriate “ to act alone" in Libya or off Libya. “We are facing a regional affair. NATO does not have an exclusive role, it must act with a decision of the United Nations and other organizations, an interest expressed by regional organizations »

A necessity: the United Nations resolution

This objective has been achieved, according to the Minister, since for all stakeholders, it is clear that in all hypotheses, “We need a UN resolution giving a mandate to military action“, including for airstrikes.

An unknown: regional cooperation

« NATO has given up acting alone. It has limited itself by placing its action in the implementation of a Security Council decision, and in connection with cooperation with regional institutions : Arab League, African Union or even conference of Islamic countries ". For the minister, this cooperation does not automatically mean military participation by Arabs or Africans. Or not at all. This participation would be more of a “political” nature. In other words, NATO would be the military tool and the Arab League or the African Union would be politically associated with the operation. Only problem. At the time the Minister spoke, the African Union considered that military action was not justified in Libya.

A German “problem”

The Franco-British proposal, summarized in the seven-point letter distributed yesterday evening by the Elysée (*), meets a “broad assent” around the table said Gérard Longuet. But with “ serious reservations expressed by Germany ". A meeting was held on the sidelines of the NATO meeting with the most concerned actors (United States, United Kingdom, France and Italy) “ but not Germany ". The German problem seems to weigh heavily within the Alliance. The minister did not want to detail the reasons. But we can already identify two sets of problems. An internal and constitutional problem – with the necessary consent of the Bundestag for any military action which could be difficult to negotiate in the middle of an election period in several Länder in March. A financial problem too. NATO military action requires co-financing from all its members, according to the usual distribution key. However, in NATO as in the EU, Germany is having more and more difficulty passing the cash register!

(remark) Is the French position readable?

France's position is starting to become illegible. Whether on the organization capable of ensuring military action in Libya (NATO and EU) or the military objectives. There seems to be more than a hair's difference between the Quai d'Orsay, La Défense and the Elysée... Evoking the hypothesis of targeted air strikes, which are one of the most final stages of military action (with the No Fly Zone) before the ground intervention, the Elysée seems to want to regain control of both its Minister of Foreign Affairs and the lead (at least in the media) of European leaders. In doing so he offends Germany which was already more than reluctant to such action. He also waves a red rag that is probably useless for the Africans or Arabs who risk turning their backs at a time when Gaddafi regains ground both militarily and politically.

Conversely, we can consider that it is a political gesture, towards the opposition, a bet on the future. Even a historical reminescence, a Bonapartist enthusiasm to support revolutions around the world. At the military level, this could resemble a cloud of smoke, a cleverly organized diversion to carry out a strategic withdrawal from the “No Fly zone” previously put forward. A barracks, an arms depot could very well then burn “on their own” or explode in an “unexplained” way. At the international level, what seems certain is that there is an “Arab” turn in French foreign policy which would thus return to a more traditional line of Gaullian policy?

(*) Read also: Cameron and Sarkozy write to the 27: Viva la revolución!

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).