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7 Oct. '97

The NATO Debate in France



As in all other Western democracies, citizens in France are more concerned with problems at home than abroad. The economic crisis, persistent levels of unemployment that are even higher than elsehwere in Europe, and the existence of what Jacques Chirac called, during his 1995 presidential campaign, a "social fracture" all weigh heavily. In the face of these day-to-day difficulties, grand international or strategic debates are of limited interest. During the legislative elections of May 25 and June 1st, 1997, the main political parties devoted little time to foreign and security policy. Not only were the parties' programs almost wholly silent on international issues, but so were their leaders-Alain Jupp for the conservative coalition and Lionel Jospin for the Socialist Party.

To this general tendency, which is found throughout the Western world, must be added a French idiosyncracy: the absence of a community of specialists who can animate a strategic debate on foreign and security policy issues, even if such issues do not figure among the foremost concerns of ordinary citizens. Unlike the United States, Great Britain, Germany or Canada, France does not have a well-developed network of think tanks active in the field of strategic research. French universities, moreover, are hardly geared to these types of problems. There is no free exchange of people among academia, the private sector and government, and the flexibility of careers in France is relatively limited. The French Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Defense have never wanted to help create independent expertise in research organizations with contracts or public funding. Private initiative is no substitute for the government's failings as the French fiscal system does not encourage the establishment of large foundations comparable to those in the United States and Germany. As a result, France has very few researchers on strategic questions. Whatever research pool is available is limited further by theorists who fail to contribute practical and timely ideas, and polemists whose affinity with or hostility to the government confines them to explaining or defending the official line rather than developing an original analysis.

Finally, the French debate over NATO ratification must be placed in the context of France's special position within NATO. Its reputation since 1966 as an anti-Atlanticist country, even favorable to the dissolution of the Alliance, reduces its expression on the subject. French opinions on NATO enlarge-ment are usually said to reflect an attitude with respect to the Alliance itself. In any other country, opposition to NATO enlargement, whether from an official or an expert, is not interpreted as opposition to the Alliance. In France any such opposition, be it on strategic or political grounds, tends to be perceived as a thinly-veiled position against NATO.

In the early 1990s, the then-President Mitterrand was often criticized for having failed to change French policy toward NATO in such a way as to accomodate the European strategic revolution that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall. (1) Admittedly, in France as in other Western countries, the needed change was so far-reaching that it could not be implemented at the same pace as the evolution of the new security framework. More specific-ally, it would have been paradoxical for France to initiate a rapprochement with NATO at a time when justification for its creation seemed to be disappearing. Yet while Mitterrand may not have made all the gestures that were suggested at the time, his policy toward NATO showed more flexibility than is commonly suggested.

Relations with NATO during Mitterrand's second term

Franois Mitterrand made France's relations with NATO dependent on political imperatives that were dialectically linked, and judged superior, to simple military criteria: France's relations with the United States, French autonomy, and the development of a European defense pillar. For the French president, then, relations with NATO could not be viewed as an end in itself, but as a means to other ends.

The objectives pursued by Mitterrand were to reassure the allies on both sides of the Atlantic of France's support for NATO; to avoid giving the impression that France intended to use the end of the Soviet threat to weaken transatlantic relations-indeed, to push the United States out of Europe-since this would have caused spasms among other European states; and finally, to avoid having the Americans use NATO to stifle European autonomy and exert its political directorate over a weakened continent. (2) Mitterrand did acknowledge the preeminence of NATO for European security, but he did not want this situation to burden the future by preventing the emergence of a strategically autonomous Europe. (3) These imperatives produced a rapprochement policy that was circumstantial (when it became impossible to do otherwise) and conditional (when French autonomy was not impeded).

In 1989, after intense internal debates, the French government agreed to participate in NATO's Air Command and Control System (ACCS), a program aimed at modernizing NATO's air defense network. Yet, even as this decision recognized, however reluctantly, the need to redefine the country's role in the alliance, (4) the French government also intended to strengthen the role of other organizations, including the European Community (EC), the Western European Union (WEU), and the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) while attending to the development of a European confederation. Thus, after France rejoined LEGGE in March 1991, a group that had been reviewing the reforms needed for the Alliance after the European strategic revolution, Foreign Minister Roland Dumas found it necessary to specify that this would not modify in the least the French attitude toward the integrated military command. (5)

Indeed, on April 11, 1991 Mitterrand chose a military forum to argue that "at the present time and for many years to come, the defense of Western Europe can be conceived only with respect to the Atlantic Alliance. It is not a question of creating a defense organization that would replace NATO. It is simply a question of knowing the limits of the Atlantic Alliance and its military organization-the limits of its competence and its geographical area-in order to understand that Europe should not miss any opportunity to endow itself with a common policy, and, accordingly, a common defense."

Mitterrand was pointing to a fundamental status quo in France's relations with NATO, one that was agreeable to him provided it accomodated certain adjustments. The following month, at a Franco-German summit held in Lille, the French president opposed any French participation in the Rapid Reaction Force that NATO had just decided to create: his rampant fear of re-integration justified this refusal.

The Rome summit of 7-8 December 1991 acknowledged a European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI) that would "show that the Europeans are ready to assume a larger part of the responsibility for their security and to help reinforce transatlantic solidarity." At the summit, however, Mitterrand refused to sign a paragraph on nuclear arms and a declaration on the evolu-tion of the situation in the Soviet Union-the former because of insufficient preliminary consultation, and the latter because the Alliance could not become a mentor to the countries of Eastern Europe. (6) It became increasingly evident, however, that the reorganization of NATO's major commands and its new missions in relation to the ex-Warsaw Pact countries would bring the problem of France-NATO relations back to the forefront.

Hardly known as an atlanticist, Mitterrand's Defense Minister, Pierre Joxe, asked for enhanced French participation within NATO on numerous occasions. Deploring that France did not participate in the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, and considering that France could make its views better known if it were present, he also emphasized the difficulty to speak of a European defense pillar within NATO without investing in the Alliance itself. (7) The idea, therefore, was not to reinforce American influence but to contain it. With this in mind, in October 1992, even as he continued to oppose a French return to the integrated structures, Joxe asked for a status that would be comparable to that of Spain, which participated in more NATO structures than France. (8)

Speaking at the Institut des Hautes tudes de Dfense Nationale (IHEDN) on 3 September 1992, Prime Minister Pierre Bregovoy had reaffirmed France's "neither-nor" policy (neither opposition nor reintegra-tion) with regard to NATO, (9) and three months later, in mid-December, Roland Dumas praised a "distanced and circumstantial rapproche-ment" with NATO with respect to peace-keeping operations (especially in the ex-Yugoslavia, which combined UN and NATO forces). From December 1992, a French general-hitherto a simple observer on the military committee-took part in discussions concerning peacekeeping in ex-Yugoslavia. France wanted the peacekeeping operations to be managed at 16 and not 15 within NATO.

Entering 1993, an agreement that specified the relationship between Eurocorps and NATO was signed between Admiral Lanxade (French Chief of Staff) and General Klaus Naumann (Inspector General of the Bundeswehr), and General Shalikashvili. According to thr agreement, Eurocorps (and French) units would be placed under a NATO "operational command" in the event of a crisis, as allowed by the earlier Ailleret-Lemmitzer and Valentin-Ferber accords. In 1993-95, the second cohabitation continued this policy of measured rapproche-ment between France and NATO: then Prime Minister Edouard Balladur and, especially, Defense Minister Pierre Lotard were more favorable to accelerating the rapprochement, but deferred to presidential prerogative. Indeed, as Balladur described the French president as "more attached [than ever] to the traditional doctrine concerning the relations between France and NATO," (10) Mitterrand scoffed at the "tendency ... to fall into line with NATO." Although Mitterrand absolved Balladur of such a tendency, he insisted that the Prime Minister was more enthusiastic toward participation in NATO military meetings than he he was: "I am not the type to be drawn into the system," concluded the French president, "I consent to it only from time to time, when our forces are concerned. The Defense Ministers would like nothing more than to attend these conclaves of high society." (11)

The 1995 White Paper mainly reaffirmed, therefore, the principles proposed in 1966: France's non-participation in the integrated military organization, the free disposition of its forces and territory, the independence of its nuclear force, the liberty to appraise the conditions of its security in a period of crisis, and the free choice of its means in the case of action.

"This does not prevent France," it was reasoned, "from actively participating in the definition of major orientations concerning NATO reform, as has been the case since 1991. It is logical, therefore, to assure French participation in the organization's decision-making meetings when the engagement of French forces and our interests are at stake. The presence of the Defense Minister at the Atlantic Council-but not that of the Foreign Minister-and that of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces at the Military Committee, will from now on be decided on a case-by-case basis by the President and the Prime Minister. This position is consistent with our established will to reinforce, within the Alliance, the weight of multilateral fora in which each state expresses itself fully." (12) France could then participate in operation Deny Flight, launched in April 1993, which, less than one year later, led to the first combat mission ever undertaken by the Alliance. (13)

In late September 1994, Lotard's participation in an "informal" meeting of the Alliance's Defense Ministers in Seville, Spain, was justified by an agenda centered on peace-keeping in the ex-Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, President Clinton's visit to Paris in June 1994, and the Brussels summit, were interpreted as the first true U.S. endorsement of a genuine European defense pillar-for reasons that were said to include a lesser U.S. presence in Europe, Clinton's lower priority on strategic questions, and a better U.S. comprehension of Europe. At the conclusion of the Brussels summit, Mitterrand could now observe: "Between [the summits in] Rome and Brussels there has been a considerable change of tone. Those who were, shall we say, taken aback by the American consent to recognize a European defense identity at Rome would find it perfectly natural at Brussels." (14)

The French Consensus

The new French consensus on NATO rested on several principles: as a loyal member of NATO, France would search for the means to improve cooperation with its allies, including the development of a European defense pillar, but reintegration in the military structure was out of the question even though the latent anti-Americanism that had been a consistent attitude on both the right and left in the 1960s and 1970s had, for the most part, disappeared. The consensus grouped all three main political parties-that is, the neo-Gaullist Rassemblement pour la Rpublique (RPR), the center-right Union pour la Dmocratie Franaise (UDF), and the Parti Socialiste (PS), with the only remaining debate among and within these parties limited to how far the rapprochement between France and NATO should go.

Kept out of this consensus were the smaller opposition parties, including the communists and the ecologists, as well as the extreme-right Front National (FN) and the Mouvement des Citoyens (a dissident wing of the PS created by former Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Chevnement after the Gulf War and the Maastricht Treaty). The ecologist candidate for the 1995 presidential elections, Dominique Voynet, wrote in her program: "For the moment, France should disengage from military blocs that have lost their reason for being (Western European Union, the European arm of NATO)." (15) Similarly, the FN held that NATO should disappear because it has "become outdated since the breakdown of the East-West antagonism." The FN proposed a military alliance among European countries aimed at coordinating their armies. This alliance would replace NATO and permit European countries to assure their defense without American tutelage-an idea which the FN would also develop during the 1995 presidential elections.16 Communist candidate Robert Hu proposed to replace NATO with a system of common security that included all Continental countries, including Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. (17)

The debates surrounding the rise of this new consensus, within the parties that joined it and with the parties that rejected it, mobilized too much energy to leave much room for a similar debate on NATO enlargement. The rapprochement with NATO was sensitive enough to overshadow the other questions NATO posed. It reopened such essential questions as France's relations with the United States, community-building in Europe, and France's role in the world as a power that holds universal values. It was far more than just a security problem, and it is in this context that the debate over NATO enlargement, before Chirac's election in 1995, must be understood.

From 1991 to 1994, France viewed NATO enlargement with mistrust-as an expression of an American will to maintain its ascendency over Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. NATO enlargement was seen as a means to impede the construction of an autonomous European defense pillar and to increase U.S. influence over East European countries. (18) After the Brussels summit, where the principle of enlargement was accepted by the 16 members of the Alliance, this reticence hardly gave way to enthusiasm, but it was no longer expressed in public, even by its most notable proponent, Franois Mitterrand. In effect, French officials had finally realized that their opposition could not stop an enlargement accepted by all other NATO members. Why, then, give East European countries the feeling that France alone wanted to keep them out of the Western club? And why, after decades of speaking about the necessity to break them out of the Yalta order, did France seem to want to maintain the lines of division?

Arguments to buy time for reflection before proceeding with enlargement were developed shortly before the Brussels summit by Prime Minister Balladur, as well as by Foreign Minister Jupp and Defense Minister Lotard. These arguments fell under two categories: first, enlargement might dilute the Alliance and deviate it from its principal mission defined by Article 5; second, enlargement risked inciting anti-Western political tendencies in Moscow. In January 1995, accordingly, Jupp proposed a treaty between NATO and Russia in order to assure the latter that its concerns over enlargement, which the French now deemed to be inevitable, were being acknowledged. (19)

Chirac's Strategic Revolution

After his election, Jacques Chirac launched a profound reform of the French defense apparatus by eliminating the national service, affirming his will to restructure the defense industry, and modifying French policy toward NATO. There was even talk of a "strategic revolution" in French-NATO relations. In early December 1995, Foreign Minister Herv de Charette announced France's decision to return into the Military Committee, where France had been only an observer since 1966. Now, the Defense Minister and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces could participate normally in the Alliance's meetings, rather than on a case by-case-basis decided by the President and Prime Minister (as had been established in 1994). The military mission to NATO became a representation in itself, on par with those of the other 15 NATO countries. "France," observed de Charette, "has decided to participate in all of the Alliance's organizations with respect to what we are doing in the ex-Yugoslavia, but this does not, naturally, mean that we will enter into the Alliance's integrated organizations." Significantly enough, this rather fundamental announcement was scarcely commented upon, and was not, at the time, criticized by the opposition.

In mid-January, Ambassador Grard Errera detailed the French plans before the Atlantic Council: participation in the Military Committee did not entail, at least for the moment, the Defense Minister's participation in the Defense Planning Committee or the Nuclear Planning Group. By contrast, the formula for common meetings among Foreign and Defense Ministers in the context of Atlantic Council meetings was retained. Paris would thus participate in all discussions on defense policy, strategic policy, and general organizational questions, but not in common planning or the integrated military structure. Moreover, more direct relations with SHAPE and SACEUR were envisioned. At this stage, then, although France would not come back in all of NATO's integrated military structures, the political significance of the French decision was clear: the government had abandoned gradual rapprochement and case-by-case cooperation, and resumed instead full NATO membership. France-NATO relations were thus normalized. With the end of the French exception approved by the conservative majority but strongly criticized by the socialist opposition, the NATO consensus previously developed among the three major political parties was also coming to an end. A very lively debate erupted between the government and the opposition.

France's change grew out of an observation and was based on a bet. The observation was that Europeans resisted the establishment of a European defense pillar, and that in any case, they were not ready to envision one outside of NATO. The bet was that the development of this pillar would be made easier by French reintegration within NATO, since it could not be built outside of of the Alliance. (20) According to Pierre Lellouche, a close associate of President Chirac, there are two classical models for European defense: the "out" model traditionally advocated by France, which seeks to develop a European military organization both outside and inside of NATO, and the "in" model, which would consist of full French reintegration. This second model, however, might present a serious risk: once back in the ranks, France could find itself isolated within an Atlantic system that would not only continue as before but would have been reinforced by the end to the French exception. Thus, the RPR deputy advocated a "give and take" strategy, "unreserved French participation in NATO against the definition of a visible and detachable European command structure." (21)

The new French President aimed at "a better distribution of responsibilities between the United States and Europe." (22) France would participate actively in the reform of the Alliance while hoping to be taken more seriously once its good faith had been demonstrated and its reputation for anti-Americanism had been lifted. The point was to convince people that the construction of a European defense pillar was not directed against the United States or the Atlantic Alliance. (23) In this way, the "give and take" strategy concerned the European partners as much as it did the United States. For now-Prime Minister Jupp, "the full and complete participation of France in the structures of the Alliance will take on its full meaning only if Europeans are capable of giving a major impulse to the Common Foreign and Security Policy." (24)

Another motivation was to avoid having French soldiers engaged in conflicts under Allied command without the Defense Minister or Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces participating in the decision within the Alliance. More generally, the point was to make France a party to the decision-making process each time its interests were involved.

In January 1996, the PS, which had not reacted to the announcements of the previous month, criticized the new French position through Paul Quils, its spokesman for defense questions: "What is the interest for France to align itself with American positions without anything in return, and to neglect the dialogue with Europe before ... total NATO participation?" (25) The Socialists questioned the govern-ment's bet (that is, the construction of a European pillar thanks to reintegration) and the magnitude of reforms that would be acceptable to the United States, notably on Europeanization. Instead of deterring war, added the Communists, the new policy would make it possible for France to wage it all over the world with European rapid reaction forces integrated into NATO, and even directly under American or NATO command.

The Berlin summit of early June 1996 did not end this polemic on the anticipated benefits of a return to NATO. Agreement on the establishment of a Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) was applauded by Defense Minister Charles Millon as a "historic event" that "marked the foundation of the European defense identity and the renovation of the Atlantic Alliance." (26) This agreement did not appease the opposition, however. "Do you really believe," asked Paul Quils, "that the United States is prepared to allow Europe to develop a strategic autonomy that will lead it to make its own military decisions? Can one believe that we are going to mobilize our European partners by aligning ourselves with the American view?" (27)

According to Quils, European defense could be denied either by antagonizing the Americans or by blindly deferring to them. Considering that European defense had not been a central objective of the European Union merely to be "NATO's crutch," he feared that in paying up front and renouncing demands for compensation and a timetable, the French government would be deprived of the only leverage it had for influencing the course of NATO. (28) Those in and close to the governent insisted on the necessity to make the first step and not "haggle" over the return, so as to convince Americans and Europeans of France's good faith.

The reintegration into NATO figured among the grievances held by the president of the Socialist group, Laurent Fabius, in the censure motion brought against the govern-ment on 19 June 1996. Similarly, Xavier de Villepin, member of the UDF and president of the Senatorial Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, approved Chirac's decision but nevertheless warned that "even if the renovation of the Alliance (and notably the CJTF formula) successfully links NATO with some minimal European ambitions, it risks to stop short of a genuine European defense resting on truly European means, which-for many of our partners-might weaken the Alliance." Thus supportive of the French policy he seemed nonetheless to regret the government's resignation in the face of Europe's apathy. (29)

A poll taken in early June 1996 suggested much public ambivalence as respondents sought a European defense force (45 percent), an independent national defense force (34 percent); and integration into NATO (17 percent). (30) These responses seemed to indicate that the respondents were more favorable to the "out" model described by Lellouche. The poll also showed that the discourse on European defense among French political leaders was internalized by public opinion, for lack of creating a strategic reality at the continental level. Still, with Charles Millon participation in the Atlantic Alliance's Defense Ministers Council of June 13, at the same time as French officers were assigned to the Inter-national Staff of NATO's Military Committee, France's return to NATO had taken a concrete form.

The second half of 1996 was the occasion of Euro-American arm-wrestling with respect to the structures of the Alliance. France sought to obtain one of NATO's major commands (AFSOUTH, AFNORTHWEST, or AFCENT). (31) For Paris, the goal was to achieve a position equal to the country's weight, and at the same time to work on a Europeanization of the Alliance. France proposed that the command of the South European sector, located in Naples, be rotated between France, Italy, and Spain. The United States refused to see this command, which had always been held by an American and which covered the command of the Sixth Fleet, assigned to a European. With the southern theater also covering access to the Middle-East and to the territories of Israel, the chances of seeing the French expectation fulfilled were very weak. The Clinton Administration even warned against the risk of seeing the U.S. Congress's support for the Alliance disappear under such circumstances. (32) France would find it easier to obtain (in rotation with the United Kingdom and Germany) the command of the northern sector.

Another point of contention arose over the extent of the power and authority of SACEUR's European deputy. Refusal to empower a deputy SACEUR to conduct operations under the WEU ruled out the possibility of a visible and detachable European command. "The Americans consider that future operations of the WEU will be of minor importance and that, consequently, the Europeans do not need a strategic level" in their chain of command. A limit was clearly placed on the magnitude of European autonomy. A compromise, finally concluded in September, enabled the Deputy SACEUR to coordinate cooperation between NATO and the WEU, and prepare plans for WEU operations through the CJTF. (33)

These developments made the French government's position more delicate, stuck between ever more lively internal criticisms and the immobility of the U.S. administration that was reinforced by the approaching presidential elections. Thus, during a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers at Bergen (Norway) on 25 September, Charles Millon, speaking in the name of the French President, threatened to interrupt the rapprochement with NATO if the French requests concerning the renovation of the Alliance were not taken into account. The threat of linking NATO reform to enlargement was even evoked. (34) From the month of June, the Foreign Minister had linked the two subjects in a positive fashion. Asked whether "consideration of the European defense identity [would be] a prerequisite to NATO enlargement," de Charette responded:

"It is first of all a question of timing. 1996 should be known for its adaptation of the Alliance. It will not be a year of great decisions on enlargement: it is a period of preparatory work. The candidate countries are preparing themselves; the Alliance is studying the measures that it can take in order to regulate the process appropriately, including ... in its relations with Russia. This preparatory work must continue. Among allies, it is necessary to recognize that adaptation facilitates enlargement and not the reverse. A renovated and revised NATO will welcome new members much more easily. By contrast, if the structures of the Alliance are not adapted, enlargement could weaken them.... The reform of NATO be decided before enlargement." (35)

The French room of maneuver was nevertheless limited. Had not President Chirac proposed throughout 1996 and 1997 that Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania join NATO and the European Union as early as the year 2000? The President had taken an unequivocal position in favor of enlargement on numerous occasions: (36)

  • In December 1995, even before France returned to the Military Committee, when Chirac had declared that it was "evident that the Atlantic Alliance must expand eastward. But I say simply that we must be careful to reach an agreement with the Russians that will permit this engagement without threatening or humiliating them."

  • A few days later during a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, when Chirac reportedly described NATO's "progressive enlargement" as "a key to stability in Europe" whose security architec-ture was to "rest, as before, on ... the Atlantic Alliance, the European pillar, and Russia."

  • In mid-September 1996, in a speech to the Polish Diet, when Chirac repeated his desire to see Poland enter NATO even as he pledged his aid for entry in the European Union as early as the year 2000.

  • In early January 1997, with a forceful plea for Hungary's accession to the EU but also "yes, ... an alliance renovated and enlarged, an essential factor in the new European security architecture."

  • During a visit in Bucharest in February 1997, when Chirac asserted his conviction that Romania would be among the first wave of entrants into NATO, in spite of the U.S. obstacle. "Romania," pleaded Chirac, "holds a very important position in the reinforcement of the Alliance's southern flank," and, he promised on more than one occasion, "France will be Romania's advocate."

  • During a visit in the Czech Republic in April, when Chirac insisted, in a private meeting with President Havel, that the Alliance was a priority that would facilitate accession to the EU, and that entry into NATO would therefore take priority over entry into the Union.

  • A few weeks later, in May, during the visit in France of Bulgarian President Petar Stonaov, as Chirac declared that France "will actively support Bulgaria's entry into the European Union as much as its entry into NATO."

Earlier, Mitterrand's project for a European confederation had been perceived as a means to stall requests by Central and East European countries to join the EU and NATO. By publicly exposing the difficulties of integrating these states into these two institutions, the French President reinforced these suspicions. After his election, Jacques Chirac took the opposite approach. Since France was unable to oppose NATO enlargement to Central and East European countries, why highlight the problems associated with such enlargement, no matter how legitimate they might be?

Admittedly, the will to create good bilateral and personal relations with promises to aid candidate countries could pay off with respect to the applicants for membership, but it consequently closed the door on taking the enlargement process hostage if France did not obtain what it wanted in terms of reform. It would be difficult to explain to candidate countries that France refused their admission because it did not obtain from the United States the concessions it wanted on the structures of the Southern Command.

Accordingly, French officials ceased to evoke a French veto on enlargement and limited themselves, more credibly, to the threat of stopping their process of reintegration. In June 1996, the Foreign Minister declared: "France will not make NATO enlargement hostage to advances in the renovation of the Alliance. It is just that enlargement would be that much easier if the Alliance the new members are joining was renovated." (37) The position of Defense Minister Charles Millon was similar: "If we succeed in reforming not only the Alliance's military structure but also its political one, France will then resume its ... full place. But if the Alliance is not reformed, and if it keeps its present structures, then France will continue to participate in the Alliance within the limits announced on 5 December 1995, and ... no further." (38) Five days later, Millon added, "Welcoming new countries is henceforth at the heart of Europe-building as much as is the renovation of the Alliance, but the mission of all enlargements is ... not to divide [and] ... its modalities should be examined with particular attention."

The French position on enlargement for NATO (often tied to that of Europe) was now well defined. As Jupp put it at a press conference in Bonn on February 12, 1996, "Our position, which is also that of our European partners, has been that the countries seeking membership in the European Union- ... up to a dozen-also seek membership in the Atlantic Alliance." In Moscow the following day, Jupp added: "EU enlargement, like that of NATO, is a natural process, and we welcome it. Russia should not perceive it as a threat because we want to reinforce the relationship between the Alliance and Russia at the same time." On this occasion, the French Prime Minister pointed out that NATO and Russian forces would cooperate on the application of the peace plan in the ex-Yugoslavia, and evoked, in the face of Russian apprehensions, his proposal for a charter between NATO and Russia. As could be expected, Foreign Minister de Charette repeated Jupp's tone: "The enlargement of the alliance to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe," he observed after a NATO ministerial meeting in late May 1995 "... will be achieved in the coming months, and ... France will support it." (39) In early October, de Charette presented NATO enlargement as "a duty" that would respond to the expectations of East European countries, but needed nonetheless to take into account "Russian concerns," even though after a visit in Paris of his Russian counterpart Kozyrev, he found the NATO question "important and difficult" and in need of "further reflection." (40)

The preoccupation of French leaders thus served East European countries without antagonizing Moscow. In September 1996, at a joint press conference in Warsaw with the Polish President, Chirac declared:

"This reform is very much underway. It should be brought to a conclusion at the Alliance's upcoming summit next year. For this reason, I hold the view that ... the accession of Poland and of the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe can take place naturally. Indeed, ... the Russians should not under any circumstances consider NATO enlargement to be offensive, dangerous or humiliating. Consequently, it is necessary to pursue simultaneously a permanent discussion between NATO and Russia that would result in a charter or agreement that would permit us to avoid any mis-understanding.... France warmly supports the entry of your great nation in the Atlantic Alliance and the WEU. 1997 should irreversibly engage the process of Polish accession into NATO. I hope that this negotiation comes to a most rapid conclusion." (41)

At the OSCE summit of December 1996, President Chirac pleaded for a strength-ening of the organization as a pan-European context for NATO enlargement. He continued to be motivated by a concern to enlarge NATO-now deemed irreversible-without Russia perceiving it as a threat. "Because only the OSCE brings together under equal rights and responsibilities the collection of countries concerned by European security, including the United States and Canada, it is the only organization able to embody the necessary pan-European security dimension," he added.

France in fact went from a position of reticence on enlargement to one of full support for an expansion that would not be limited either by the U.S. preference for Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, or by Germany's desire to stop with its neighbors. With French officials dismissing the need to define the limits of enlargement at this point, the focus was placed on Article 10 of the Washington Treaty, which extended an invitation to "any other European state that is capable of aiding the development of the principles of the present treaty and of contributing to the security of the North Atlantic region"-a definition that could potentially apply to all the prospective candidates for NATO membership. The pace could be differentiated to take account of specific geographic, military and political circumstances, but no country would have to feel excluded a priori. Enlargement should cover the South as much as the North because the risks of instability are much greater in the South than in the North. Geostrategically, Romania was very important, and the new government was making strenuous efforts to move closer to the West. Because an immediate EU response was not likely, Romanians could, for the moment at least, join the Western family only via NATO membership. France argued that they could not be kept out of NATO at a time when all its neighbors were talking about enlargement.

That there would have been little discussion of NATO enlargement in France apart from official statements made by high-level government representatives is easily explained. Responsibile political leaders did not see the advantage of adressing a question that was admittedly delicate but toward which the public was all the more uninformed as its limited interest in foreign policy generally, and NATO specifically, involves the terms of French membership rather than the participation of new members. The only significant exceptions to this relative neglect of the issue were Michel Rocard (who had served as Mitterrand's prime minister from 1988 to 1991) and former French president Valry Giscard d'Estaing.

Both men had renounced-reportedly after having given it some thought-running for the 1995 presidential elections. No longer aiming at the highest executive functions but still anxious to play a guiding moral or intellectual role-and both relieved of their dependence on public opinion-their interest was consistent with their political beliefs as much as with their personal ambitions: serving as Foreign Minister remained an assignement which they could accept without a loss of prestige. They could properly consolidate their status with such statements on crucial issues that were neglected by other "ordinary" politicians.

Both Giscard and Rocard expressed reservations about enlargement. In early July 1996, the former French President, then the President of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the National Assembly, voiced his fears of "isolating and antagonizing Russia" and urged the government "to reopen the debate within NATO on eastward expansion" with an "alternative solution consisting of NATO providing a military guarantee on the eastern border of Poland and on that of the other states concerned." Similarly, following a visit to Russia in mid-January 1997, he repeated his belief that NATO enlargement in Eastern Europe should include firm security guarantees to Russia, "prior to, or at least simultaneous with the enlargement decision" and with "the same degree of obligation" as the extension of NATO guarantees to new members. These guarantees could include "obligatory consultations" or "a mutual agreement" between NATO and Russia over the deployment of the Alliance's military infrastructures on the territory of its new members. (42) Similar warnings over the consequences which such a decision would have on Russia were made by another conservative leader, Philippe Seguin. "Nothing," declared the then-President of the National Assembly in late December 1996, "would be more dangerous and in any case counterproductive than to recreate, seven years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new separation whose line of demarcation, in the last analysis, would have been only moved a few hundred kilometers to the east."

For Rocard, the only serious security problem in Europe was Russia, a country whose public sentivities were all the more fragile as its democracy remained uncertain. "Under these conditions," asked Rocard, "is it urgent, is it intelligent, to tell the Russian people and their leaders, who continue to possess tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, that we distrust them? ... That we are putting into place the capacity to rapidly deploy strategic arms all around them? Couldn't we explain to the Polish, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks and Romanians ... that their real security depends on an accord between the West and Russia?" And the former prime minister to as for a treaty with Russia as the "prerequisite to any enlargement of NATO. To fail to understand [this need] is to put peace at risk. It is time to pull ourselves together, to slow down a process uncon-sciously set in motion, and to assure true security to half the world. (43) As for Paul Quils, enlargement remained an American issue as the United States "is negotiating directly with Russia and the candidate countries over the heads of NATO and its members." (44)

With Rocard and Quils both viewed as leading contenders for the Foreign and Defense Ministries under a Socialist government, the outcome of the June 1 elections might have caused some apprehensions over the Madrid Summit, as well as over France's policy toward NATO beyond Madrid. Throughout the 1997 electoral campaign, however, Socialist leader Lionel Jospin had insisted that although he would not agree to any "reserved domain" as a matter of principle, he would agree to share competencies with the President. During the two previous periods of cohabitation between two different political majorities (1986-1988 and 1993-1995), the President's primacy in the areas of defense and foreign policy had not been challenged by the prime minister (Chirac in the first case, and Balladur in the latter). During the first cohabitation, for example, decisions on the ground mobile missile program, French participation in the SDI program, and changes in the French doctrine concerning pre-strategic nuclear weapons all reflected Mitterrand's positions over Chirac's objections and preferences. Similarly, during the second co-habitation, Balladur did not resume nuclear testing, which he favored but to which Mitterrand was unequivocally opposed.

Nevertheless, the third cohabitation that opened on June 1, 1997, is entirely different. Previous cohabitations followed legislative elections that were held on schedule-that is, five years after the previous legislative elections which coincided with the start of the presidential mandate. Now, the new majority emerged after a dissolution that was announced by Chirac barely two years after his election. With the President thus significantly weakened, might the new majority adopt a new policy with respect to NATO, geared to the preferences, for example, of the Communists and ecologists?

The implications which such efforts would have on relations between Jospin and Chirac, and by implication on the constitution of the Fifth Republic, make such a development iunlikely. The political stakes are such that the success of the new government will weigh heavily on the future of the parties that comprise it. There is thus no interest for them to engage in one-upmanship in an area that is minor by comparison with others they consider more essential.

Still, the Jospin government did halt the country's reintegration into NATO, and in so doing reopened the debate over the nature of French relations with that organization. But even if the former majority had stayed in power and Chirac had not been forced, therefore, to share his authority and power with a leftist government, the lack of progress in the Alliance's Europeanization would probably have had a telling impact on the pace of France's reintegration. With regard to enlargement more specifically, the new government adopted the President's own position, and has shown itself favorable to enlargement even though both Chirac and Jospin would have liked to open the door for more than three new members, and because both also knew that France could not block the process of enlargement in any case. In the end, therefore, NATO enlargement developed according to U.S. preferences. At Madrid, a unified French government shelved its reserva-tions because it knew that they would not suffice to reverse or modify the course of events. In late June 1997, less than three weeks before the Summit, the Foreign Ministry spokesman could still pretend that "without prejudging the President's opinion, it seems that the conditions posed for the reintegration into the military organization are not fulfilled." But this muffled display of national assertiveness rapidly gave way to a common position, reinforced by a U.S. attitude, during the G8 Summit in Denver and prior to the Madrid Summit, which was perceived as hegemonic on the Right as much as on the Left.

Under these conditions, the parliamentary debate over ratification of the enlargement envisioned at Madrid could hold some surprises. Admittedly, ratification of international agreements traditionally poses no problem in France: the Parliament accepts without much discussion what the government negotiates and the President accepts. But circumstances this time appear to be much more fluid. Those who are favorable to NATO but found Madrid's enlargement insufficient and those who are opposed to enlargement irrespective of their attitude toward NATO could form a coalition whose added benefit would be for the parliamentary Right to embarrass the leftist government and for the Left to embarrass the President.

End notes

  1. "Franois Mitterrand's presidency was stuck in the Ice Age.... It was necessary to await the arrival of Jacques Chirac for the Presidential Palace to be transformed from Sleeping Beauty's castle into the nerve center of a major strategic and doctrinal transformation." Olivier Debouzy, "France-Otan : La fin de l'autre guerre froide," Commentaire (Summer 1996), p. 349. Also Pierre Lellouche, "La rforme de la dfense franaise," Premires Confrences Stratgiques Annuelles de l'IRIS, Documentation Franaise (1995), pp. 17-24.

  2. According to Ronald Tiersky, "In the United Nations, in NATO and in ad hoc operations, France knows that America will often set the parameters. Mitterrand has frequently taken contrarian posi-tions, as on the Bosnian embargo. In the long run, however, the theme of his American policy was not to play solo above all else to trumpet France's presence, but to be important enough to be a first-rank partner for other world powers." "Mitterrand's Legacy," Foreign Affairs (January-February 1995), p. 119.

  3. Pierre Favier and Roland Martin, La dcennie Mitterrand (Paris, 1996), vol. 3, p. 251. Secretary Baker abruptly declared in Key Largo in 1991: "When the Twelve make security decisions among themselves without consulting us, there is a problem because security comes under NATO." And President Bush to add: "It is fitting to extend the role of NATO, to give it an enlarged political role. It is necessary to change speed because we no longer know who the enemy is."

  4. On 20 June 1990, Mitterrand declared to Le Monde: "With the present state of forces in Europe, NATO is necessary and must maintain its cohesion, unified Germany included. But it would be good to alter its strictly military content that gives it bloc-to-bloc behavior I consider outdated."
  5. This group had been created at the London summit. France had initially refused to join it because the group was initially supposed to work only on revising the military doctrine.

  6. Cf. Arnaya Bloch Lain and Yves Boyer, "Europe Occidentale," L'Anne stratgique (1992), pp. 19-33.

  7. On 4 December 1991, he was amazed to be the last Defense Minister of all Europe not to participate in NATO meetings. On 12 December, he esteemed that his absence at the Cocona meeting scheduled for the following week was a "strategic curiosity" and "a question connected to history that can evolve."

  8. Un nouveau dbat stratgique, Ministre de la Dfense. Documentation franaise (1993), p. 8.

  9. With the breakup of the Warsaw Pact, some believed that NATO had lost all its reason for existing. Others thought that, in order for NATO to survive, it was necessary to find it new missions. France did not share these extreme visions. It continued to protect the specific character of the Alliance.

  10. Deux ans Matignon, Plon (1996), p. 81.

  11. Interview with Le Figaro, 9 September 1994.

  12. Livre blanc sur la dfense, Documentation franaise, p. 57.

  13. It had three missions: to conduct surveillance of Bosnian airspace, to bring air protection to UNPROFOR, and to conduct air raids for the benefit of UNPROFOR.

  14. L'Anne stratgique (1995), p. 12.

  15. D. Voynet, Oser l'cologie et la solidarit, Edition Les Verts, Plon.

  16. Governmental program of the Front national: "300 measures pour la renaissance de la France" (February 1993), p. 315. See also the FN's 1995 "Contrat pour la France avec les Franais."

  17. Le Figaro, 12 April 1995.

  18. Pascal Boniface, "NATO's enlargement, France dilemmas," pp. 181-195; "Will NATO go East?" ed. David Haglund (Queens University Press, 1996).

  19. Speech on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Centre d'Analyses et de prvisions. Politique trangre (1995), pp. 245-259.

  20. For Olivier Debouzy, "President Chirac made the choice, difficult but courageous, to pursue a strategy of active influence rather than one of lofty independence." "France-Otan : la fin de l'autre guerre froide," Commentaire (Summer 1996), p. 352.

  21. Pierre Lellouche, Lgitime dfense, ed. Patrick Banon, pp. 257-258.

  22. IHEDN speech, 8 June 1996.

  23. For Joseph Fitchett, "Instead of trying to compete with the NATO that was led by the Americans like a central defense organization for Europe, France decided to rejoin NATO with the hope of creating a strong European pillar within the Alliance. French leaders renounced their proposals for the European Union to develop its own secular arm in the matter of defense." "Paris moves towards new NATO role," International Herald Tribune, 17 January 1996.

  24. IHEDN speech, 10 September 1996. Nouvelles atlantiques, 13 January 1996.

  25. "Paris noue le dialogue nuclaire l'Otan," Libration, 17 January 1996.

  26. J.O. Assemble Nationale, 5 June 1996, p. 3880.

  27. Op. cit., pp. 3881-86

  28. Cf. "L'OTAN et la dfense europenne," Relations Internationales et Stratgiques (Autumn 1996), pp. 13-17.

  29. The Socialists, too, made the same point: "European defense is a French ambi-tion. The natural inclination of our partners is to put up with American protection. We pulled them from their inertia thanks to doubled efforts.... But the natural inclination will come back in a heart beat if France looks like it is falling into line." Paul Quils, "L'Otan et la dfense europenne," Rela-tions Internationales et Stratgiques, op. cit., p. 15. Villepin report, p. 45. (Note that Senator de Villepin is the father of President Chirac's chief of staff, Dominique de Villepin.)

  30. In a poll that makes a distinction between those who "sympathize" with the Right and with the Left, responses varied only 1 percent between the two categories.

  31. "France tente d'obtenir un grand commande-ment rgional de l'Otan," Le Monde, 21-22 July 1996.

  32. "US and France face off on control of Nato southern command," International Herald Tribune, 2 October 1996.

  33. Nouvelles atlantiques, 27 September 1996.

  34. "La France lie la rforme de l'Otan son dveloppement." Le Monde, 2 October 1996.

  35. Interview with Le Monde, 2 June 1996.

  36. Time Magazine, 4 December 1995. AFP, 14 December 1995. Le Monde, 17 January 1997. "Otan : Chirac avocat de la Roumanie," Le Figaro, 24 February 1997. "Roumanie: Chirac tend la main, pas les visas," Libration, 24 February 1997. "Chirac plaide pour une Europe unie," Le Figaro, 4 April 1997. "Paris soutiendra activement l'entre de la Bulgarie dans l'Otan," Le Monde, 4-5 May 1997.

  37. Le Figaro, 10 June 1996.

  38. Interview with the German daily Stuttgarter Zeitung, 7 October 1996. Also, Millon's address before The Aspen Institute, 12 October 1996.

  39. Declaration made after a NATO ministerial meeting, 30 May 1995. Propos sur la Dfense, no. 51 (May-June 1995), pp. 36-39.

  40. AFP, 12 and 20 October 1995.

  41. Propos sur la dfense (September 1996), no. 61, p. 55.

  42. See related press reports in Le Monde (July 9, 1996 and January 18, 1997).

  43. "Otan : attention danger," L'Express, 13 March 1997.

  44. "Impasse de la rvolution stratgique," Le Monde, 14 December 1996.

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