Translated from French by Tom Winter April 18, 2016. Note: This was a long and abstruse item to render and I got distracted from it to other projects. It still seems just as worthwhile today, November 29, so I returned to it and finished it. I have left out the footnotes.
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Whatever has happened today to the reservations — or rather, the firm opposition — vented by François Hollande in April 2008 when he wanted the Assembly to vote a censure motion against President Sarkozy’s intent to put France back in NATO?
“Why put an end today to a strategic choice settled on in 1966 by General DeGaulle and maintained by every successive president of the Republic?” he asked.(1)
A decision he described as “unfortunate and inappropriate.” Unfortunate “for the interests of France, whose status as singular ally of the United States is a hallmark of its international policy.” Inappropriate because, beyond the “pure symbol” mentioned by Nicolas Sarkozy, “there are symbols that are foundational to policy and give it its authority.” And that is “to preserve the specificity of France on the international stage. Not only of France, but of Europe”- at the time “when NATO ‘s identity is changing.”
NATO is the armed wing of a Western bloc whose main mission is to defend its values. A kind of substitute UN for the US so it doesn’t act alone. This drift was, up till now, rejected by a France hostile to the idea of a policeman of a well-meaning Western world. But it is accepted today by the head of state when he binds, in his speech in Washington, the future of our values to that of the Alliance. But France is not just a Western country. It is a European country, original. And if our country remains the ally and friend of the United States, a friend does not mean a subject and allied does not mean aligned. ” This amounts to,” added François Hollande, a “breakdown in the consensus on NATO established in our country since 1966”.
But “in any democracy worthy of the name, such trade-offs were made after extensive public debate and a formal vote of Parliament.”
Is this really the same man who, having become president after a very discreet ministerial consultation at the beginning of January 2014 (2), seized the North Atlantic Council with a request, Which has nothing harmful in appearance, adherence to a Protocol that defines the legal status of NATO headquarters and their personnel on the territory of the allies, and therefore on ours? This protocol was signed in Paris in 1952 and has not concerned us since March 30, 1966, precisely. The French application was unanimously accepted by the Council on 21 January 2015. Before this acceptance, a bill had been tabled in the Senate by Laurent Fabius on 4 January 2015 (3), and then an accelerated procedure was initiated on 9 March, voted on 15 March and transmitted the same day to the Assembly, where it was voted on 7 April. No “extensive public debate” or “solemn vote” – Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defense, being occupied elsewhere, the text was defended by Secretary of State for Equality (?), Ericka Bareigts, Assisted by the secretary of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Guy-Michel Chauveau (MP PS representing Sarthe) who sought to argue (4) that the text “which is above all technical”, and “harmonizes rules and administrative procedures related to the reception of NATO personnel,” and “does not reflect a shift in our position within NATO”
The text of this protocol, which was signed in French and English (5), clearly indicates its object: for the States of the Alliance, “headquarters may be established in their territories by special agreements concluded under the North Atlantic Treaty “.
And these headquarters, whose status and that of their personnel are defined by the text, are “subordinate to a supreme headquarters”, i.e NATO, whose boss has always been an American general – today General Philip Breedlove. The law voted practically under the table on April 7 thus opens the possibility of the appearance on French soil of bases under American command – which is in total contradiction with the choice that General de Gaulle expressed on March 7, 1966 to the American president Lyndon Johnson “to recover on its territory the entire exercise of its sovereignty, currently undermined by the permanent presence of Allied military elements or by the use of its airspace” (see document below). And in total contradiction with the position that Francois Hollande defended in 2008. Which embarrassed the Secretary of State on April 7, since it stated: “There are only two supreme (NATO) headquarters; None is in France. One is located in Mons, Belgium: command of operations. The other in Norfolk, in the United States (…). There is also no international military headquarters subordinate to a supreme headquarters in the territory of France and no plans to install one. “(4)
Except in the wake of it, Guy-Michel Chauveau said that it had been well thought out: “In the future, if France requested, certain structures located in France could, if necessary, be the subject of a decision of activation by the North Atlantic Council, unanimously. As such, the the following could be affected: headquarters of the French Rapid Reaction Corps, located in Lille; The headquarters of the European Rapid Reaction Corps, located in Strasbourg; The headquarters of the French rapid reaction force at Toulon; The Center of Excellence, which is the Analysis and Simulation Center for Preparation for Air Operations located in Lyon-Mont Verdun.” And the deputy did not hesitate to shunt the sense of the report by former Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine (1997-2002) to the President of the Republic in November 2012 “on the consequences of the return of France in the integrated command NATO, on the future of the transatlantic relationship and the prospects for a Europe of Defense.”
“You know the conclusions of this report”
Now, yes, we know them, the report is public (6). And if we know how to read both Hubert Védrine’s report and his hearing on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense ,and the Armed Forces in the Senate on November 27, 2012 (7). His remarks are very nuanced. The diplomatic effect of this return: “For many countries around the world, beginning with the BRICS, but also other emerging countries, Arab and African, who believed it or thought it useful to say so, France’s non-participation in the integrated military command of NATO had become the symbol of France being the ally of the United States but yet not aligned with them according to the enshrined formula and thus there was the promise of a potentially autonomous French line in relation to the United States in foreign affaires. So, alignment or not? In the eyes of the non-Western world, the question remains posed beyond the first proofs of maintaining an autonomous thinking capacity, and appreciation is suspended from future events “(p. 24 of the PDF).
What is going to be the effect of putting oneself in a position to abandon the entire exercise of sovereignty over its territory? What image is France projecting here?
What about our armies? What about the autonomy of the strategic thinking of France, the original country boasted by François Hollande in 2008? “Our vigilance must also be exercised on the risk of conceptual and theoretical phagocytosis. Our military will need to maintain its own capacity for threat analysis, reflection and forecasting on scenarios and even planning, which has been the case so far without relying on NATO structures, or European ones. Posts inNATO should not be the only possible outcome of a successful French military career (…). More generally, for the Ministry of Defense, for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is a question of influencing the thinking of NATO, but not of merging into it. It is a risk in the long term, not immediate but real, to be taken into account,” wrote Hubert Védrine in 2012 (page 19 of the PDF), still insisting on vigilance “on industrial and technological issues.” And on the need to define a “French and European industrial policy” by making sure not to be “cannibalized” by the American military-industrial complex (page 20 of the PDF). Here, too, the danger becomes clearer.
Would the “rupture in the consensus on NATO established in our country since 1966” evoked by François Hollande in 2008 be established under his own mandate?
Especially since another of the questions raised by Hubert Védrine in 2012 will come to the forefront at the next NATO summit on 8 and 9 July in Warsaw: the future of nuclear deterrence. Evoked at the NATO summit in Chicago in May 2012, it was limited to the “statement that the Atlantic Alliance remained a defensive military alliance and a nuclear alliance and that a ballistic missile defense” wanted by the Americans ” was compatible with the French nuclear deterrence (7). We raised the issue here (8) in May 2012 and noted the conditions then posed by François Hollande (anti-missile defense “can not be a substitute for nuclear deterrence but a complement,” “our industrialists must be directly involved” And “dialogue with Russia must be maintained”).
Yet, as Nathalie Guibert points out in Le Monde on April 13 (9), “for NATO, it is the summit of all the possible traps, those of division, outbidding, or rushing forward “Because it will have to face the heavy questions” that the allies “had set aside in recent years.” Must we believe that President Hollande, who so warmly invoked “the independence of France” in 2008, chose, without saying so, alignment with the United States? And if this were so, as the discreet maneuver he secured on April 7, which reproached President Sarkozy for his “casualness vis-à-vis the Parliament”, will he be able, in the vital field of military nuclear, to defend our interests?
How could he turn his back on that which he said “has enabled, beyond the political majorities or the successive Presidents, bringing together the French on the main orientations of our foreign policy, and which allowed our country to be respected By the international community”?
First, everyone should be aware of what is happening, and the issues involved, which, as François Hollande said, are neither technical nor innocuous.
What’s at risk is our future, our security; it’s a matter of our own control over our own destiny.
“It’s not the property of the president of the Republic to decide by himself our affairs of foreign policy and defense. This domain cannot be exclusive,” François Hollande said in conclusion.
Contributing editor and volunteer translator Tom Winter, retired Classics professor, monitors the news in 6 languages, and sometimes cannot help writing satire, since that’s what today’s news mostly deserves