France and NATO : presentation [fr]

France in NATO during the Cold War

France, a founding member of NATO, participated fully in the Alliance from the beginning, and hosted NATO’s first permanent seat in Paris (in the Palais de Chaillot and then in Dauphine).

In 1966, France decided to withdraw from the integrated military command of the Alliance. This decision did not in any way call into question the French commitment to participate in the collective defence of the Alliance: according to General de Gaulle’s formulation, it was a question of "modifying the form of our Alliance without altering its substance".

France’s solidarity with its Allies did not fade during the Cold War’s times of tension, from the Cuban missile crisis to that of the "euromissiles", during which France supported the deployment by NATO of Pershing missiles in the Federal Republic of Germany in response to the deployment of SS-20 Soviet nuclear missiles.

France’s commitment to NATO operations

France has been one of the main contributors to NATO post-Cold War operations since their early days. France participated in NATO crisis management operations in Bosnia from 1993 to 2004 in the framework of IFOR, and in Kosovo in 1999 as part of the NATO air campaign to end abuses against civilian populations (SFOR). It has since contributed to the NATO force in Kosovo (KFOR).

France has been active in Afghanistan since 2001 and significantly contributed to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which has been under NATO command since 2003. It withdrew its fighting forces in 2012 and has since retained training and supporting staff in the framework of ISAF.

In Libya, as part of Operation Unified Protector, France was one of the most active Allies in the Alliance’s action to protect the civilian populations.

The return of France to NATO’s integrated military structures

France’s 2009 decision to return to full participation intervened in the context of a partial return to NATO’s military structures from as early as 1995. Even since, the defense ministers participate to ministerial meetings, the chiefs of joint defence staff take part in meetings with their counterparts from the Allied countries, and the French military representatives to NATO sit at the Military Committee. Since then, French officers also serve at the headquarters of the Allied Forces in Europe (SHAPE), at the operational level headquarters and in some organizations of the Command for Transformation.

The French decision of full participation to NATO, announced by the President of the Republic in June 2008 during the debates on the White paper on national defence, had two objectives: on the one hand, to increase our presence and influence in the Alliance; on the other hand, to facilitate the strengthening of the Europe of defence by removing any ambiguity about possible competition between the two organizations.

France also laid down several conditions for this return to the military structure:

  • the preservation of its full freedom of judgement for France’s contribution to NATO operations;
  • the retention of its nuclear independence; France thus decided not to join NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group (NPG);
  • no French forces are permanently placed under NATO command in peacetime;
  • finally, the non-participation in the common financing of certain expenses decided before our return in the structure of command.

The government having engaged its responsibility on a foreign policy declaration under article 49 (1) of the Constitution, the decision was subject to a vote in the National Assembly, which approved it in March 2009. France officially announced its full participation to NATO military structures at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit in April 2009.

As a result, France occupies since 2009 approximately 750 additional officer positions within the NATO integrated command, and in particular the post of Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation (SACT), which was occupied successively by General Abrial (2009-2012), General Paloméros (2012-2015) and General Mercier (since 2015).

The Védrine report

On 18 July 2012, the President of the Republic entrusted former Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine with a report on the full participation of France in the integrated military structure of NATO.

This report, entitled "The consequences of the return of France to the integrated military command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the future of the transatlantic relationship and the prospects for the outlook for the Europe of defence" was submitted on 14 November to the President who approved its conclusions and wished that they would contribute to the work on the new White paper on defence and national security.

The report concludes that a "French re-exit from the integrated command is not an option" and stresses the importance of avoiding any "trivialization" of France’s position in NATO. It calls on France to be "vigilant and demanding", in particular on issues such as the role of nuclear deterrence and the promotion of the Europe of defence, particularly with regard to the industrial and technological implications of capability initiatives.

France, an autonomous but solidary ally

According to the 2013 White Paper, France’s defence and national security strategy cannot be conceived outside the framework of the Atlantic Alliance and its involvement in the European Union.

France is a reliable and solidary ally, essential to the proper implementation of NATO missions, but which retains a capacity for action outside the Alliance and a full autonomy of decision. France thus fully assumes to put forth its interests in the Alliance, to retain an original voice and to be a source of proposals.

France fully assumes its responsibilities within NATO’s balanced burden-sharing:

  • In terms of capabilities, France is one of the few Allies to have a combat-proven defence tool that covers the entire spectrum. The national capability priorities will help to maintain and modernize this defence tool, in line with the objectives agreed within NATO and the European Union.
  • Regarding operations, France contributes to the overall security of the Alliance and Europe through its operations in the Sahel and the Levant. It deploys 300 staff under the enhanced forward presence (eFP) to contribute to the deterrence mission agreed at the Warsaw summit. Through its operational commitments, France contributes to the political and military credibility of NATO.

Dernière modification : 26/07/2019

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