France to Rejoin NATO Command
March 11th, 2009 at 12:11 pm - by Kit Sauder
After 43 years apart, France will be rejoining NATO Command. In 1966 General Charles de Gaulle, hero of the fifth republic and the most influential of French leaders in the modern era unilaterally removed France from NATO Command so as to put forward an image of French and a greater European independence after World War II. De Gaulle was responsible for the peace and ceding from France of Algeria, as well as recognition of Communist China in the international community.
Under Sarkozy, the intellectual argument of ‘atlanticism’ has taken hold of the French political elite. To be close to the Americans has been a primary policy motivator. During Sarkozy’s presidency the world has seen Algerian immigrants riot in the streets of Paris, an alienation of China and a return to what many see as a client arrangement with the United States. Now Sarkozy intends to move the Republic back into the NATO command structure. Interestingly, both Sarkozy and de Gaulle argued that their respective moves were made, “in the interest of France and the interest of Europe.”
It has been argued that in doing so, the French will have an even greater voice in the affairs of NATO, both in civil and military matters. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Schaafer has stated that, “[France's] full participation in all the civil and military decision-making and planning processes cannot but strengthen the alliance further.”
Many worry that by re-entering the NATO Command, France will be handing over control of its nuclear deterrence capabilities, furthermore that France will be dragged into conflicts which the French people want nothing to do with. A counter to this is that the French have been involved in NATO missions since the withdrawal of France from NATO Command, they merely haven’t had a say in where the forces were sent or how they operated. In fact they are the fourth largest contributor of forces.
There will be a no confidence vote on the issue on March 17 in the French Parliament. However, since Sarkozy’s party holds a majority in the House, it seems likely that the motion will be passed and furthermore, that Sarkozy’s moves towards a France mindful of her Atlantic partners will continue.