Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 353–366 | Cite as

From exceptional to special? A reassessment of France-NATO relations since reintegration

  • Annick CizelEmail author
  • Stéfanie von Hlatky


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  1. 1.
    In chronological order of publication, one may cite, among others: Frédéric Bozo, ‘Alliance atlantique: la fin de l’exception française?’, Working Paper, Fondation pour l’Innovation politique,
  2. 1a.
    Alastair Cameron and Jean-Pierre Maulny, ‘France’s NATO Reintegration: Fresh Views with the Sarkozy Presidency?’, RUSI Occasional Paper, February 2009Google Scholar
  3. 1b.
    Borja Lasheras and Vincente Palacio, ‘Implications for European Defence of France’s Return to NATO Military Structure’, Opex Memorandum, n°120, Madrid, April 1, 2009Google Scholar
  4. 1c.
    Jeremy Ghez and F. Stephen Larrabee, ‘France and NATO’, Survival 51, no. 2 (2009): 77–90; ‘France and NATO’, Politique étrangère, NATO 1949–2009 4 (2009): 137–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 1d.
    Gisela Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet, ‘France’s New NATO Policy Leveraging a Realignment of the Alliance?’, Strategic Studies Quarterly (2009)Google Scholar
  6. 1e.
    Pascale Andréani, ‘La France, l’OTAN et l’Union européenne, Note no. 48’, Fondation Robert Schuman,; Sophie Dagand and Oriane Reynaud, ‘L’avenir de l’OTAN: les regards académiques’, Fiche de l’IRSEM [Institut de Recherche Stratégique de l’Ecole Militaire] no. 3 (2010),; andGoogle Scholar
  7. 1e.
    Anne-Henry de Russé, ‘La France dans l’OTAN: La culture militaire française et l’identité stratégique en question’, Focus stratégique no. 22 (IFRI, 2010).Google Scholar
  8. 2.
    As the 2008 Livre blanc [White Paper] entitled Défense et sécurité nationale [Defence and National Security] made it clear reintegration was pending, the daily press, in print and online, hosted contradictory political and scholarly debate anticipating reintegration throughout 2008–2009. For a digest of French political party division at the time, see Catherine Gouëset, ‘Pour ou contre la réintégration de la France dans l’OTAN’, L’Express, February 17, 2009, Scholar
  9. 3.
    Address by Nicolas Sarkozy, Fondation pour la Recherche stratégique [FRS], Ecole militaire, Paris, March 11, 2009, siers/2009/colloque_otan/discours/sarkozy.pdf.Google Scholar
  10. 4.
    France, among other European allies, had expected a more significant transatlantic rapprochement from Obama’s campaign tour of Europe, as epitomised in the democratic candidate’s July 2008 Berlin speech, and Russia Reset early in his first term. Disillusion was all the sharper once the ‘pivot to Asia’ was made a priority by 2011, into Obama’s second term.Google Scholar
  11. 5.
    The phrase was coined by former Socialist Minister for Foreign Affairs Hubert Védrine.Google Scholar
  12. 6.
    Authors’ translation. Hubert Védrine, Rapport pour le Président de la République sur la France et la mondialisation (2007), 9, 39.Google Scholar
  13. 7.
    See for instance Jean-Pierre Chevènement [F. Mitterrand’s Minister for Defence, 1988–1991], ‘France’s “Return” to NATO: An Inopportune Decision’, Politique étrangère: NATO 1949–2009, 151–2Google Scholar
  14. 7a.
    Louis Gautier [Defence Policy Adviser to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, 1997–2002], ‘Le retour dans le bercail atlantique est inopportun et inefficace’, Le Monde, February 20, 2009.Google Scholar
  15. 8.
    The editors wish to thank Prof. David Haglund at Queens University, Prof. Pauline Schnapper at University Sorbonne Nouvelle and Dr Maya Kandel at IRSEM / Sorbonne Nouvelle for their friendly support when this special issue was first conceived in 2011–2012.Google Scholar
  16. 9.
    Annick Cizel and Christian Nuenlist, eds., ‘Cold War Maverick: France and NATO, 1946–1991’, Journal of Transatlantic Studies 9, no. 3 (2011).Google Scholar
  17. 10.
    The narrative of reintegration collided with French public opinion’s war-weariness over Afghanistan, triggering ever louder accusations regarding ‘President Sarkozy’s wish to ingratiate himself with the Americans rather than to pursue France’s national interest’. Barbara Jankowski, ‘War Narratives in a World of Global Information Age. France and the War in Afghanistan’, IRSEM Paris Paper, no.8 (2013): 19.Google Scholar
  18. 11.
    As noted in a special issue published by French think-tank IFRI to commemorate the 60th anniversary of NATO and French reintegration, ‘Australia, New Zealand and Japan were already important NATO partners and South Korea, India, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and Taiwan were also noted as possible players in a new constellation of Western security interests that NATO might seek to institutionalize’. Michael Clarke, ‘The Global Nato Debate’, Politique étrangère: NATO 1949–2009, English edition, 74, no. 4 (2009): 60.Google Scholar
  19. 12.
    Authors’ translation. Hubert Védrine and Dominique Moïsi, Les Cartes de la France à l’heure de la mondialisation (Paris: Fayard, 2000), 13.Google Scholar
  20. 13.
    French Ministry of Defence, Chapter 5, ‘La rénovation transatlantique’, Défense et sécurité nationale. Le Livre blanc (Paris: Odile Jacob / La Documentation française, 2008), 110, tualites_19/livre_blanc_sur_defense_875/index.html.Google Scholar
  21. 14.
    French Ministry of Defence, Livre blanc. Défense et sécurité nationale (2013). Scholar
  22. 15.
    French Ministry of Defence, The White Paper [English version] (2013), 63–4.Google Scholar
  23. 16.
    Zbigniew Brzezinski, ‘Towards a Security Web?’, Politique étrangère: NATO 1949–2009, 55.Google Scholar
  24. 17.
    Maurice Vaïsse, ‘France and NATO: A History’, Politique étrangère: NATO 1949–2009, 147.Google Scholar
  25. 18.
    ‘E3’ to signify European Union leadership as exercised by France, the UK and Germany, with France striving to take the head of a ‘division of labor’ that will share military and nuclear power with London and economic and financial leverage over Eurozone members with Germany.Google Scholar
  26. 19.
    Ghez and Larrabee, ‘France and NATO’.Google Scholar
  27. 20.
    For all the uproar over France’s early departure, Paris’ came second to the Netherlands’, who started withdrawing their 2000 troops in 2010. When candidate Hollande had promised total withdrawal, the presidential compromise downsized it to ‘combat troops’. ‘Success’ was claimed by February 2013, when a bipartisan Parliamentary commission nonetheless lamented the €3.5 billion the Afghan conflict had cost the country. 1500 troops remained by the end of 2012, with NATO figures down to 88 by August 2014. ‘Le retrait français d’Afghanistan “réussi”, mais au prix fort’, Le Monde, February 27, 2013; NATO, ‘International Security Assistance Force — Troop Contributing Nations’, Table, August 4, 2014, Scholar
  28. 21.
    French Ministry of Defence, ‘Le dispositif français pour l’Afghanistan.’ (accessed August 4, 2014).
  29. 22.
    French Ministry of Defence, ‘Delegation for Strategic Affairs: NATO Operations.’ (accessed May 23, 2013). Previous ISAF Commanders came from the UK, Turkey, Germany and Canada. Since February 2007, the position has been held continuously by US generals. See ISAF/NATO, ‘ISAF Commanders’, Scholar
  30. 23.
    Previous ISAF-COS included Turkish, German, and Italian Generals.Google Scholar
  31. 24.
    French Ministry of Defence, ‘Afghanistan: un général français aux commandes de l’aéroport de Kaboul,’ (accessed October 2, 2012). Kabul Airport is home to ISAF Joint Command.Google Scholar
  32. 25.
    See ‘French Relief Assistance to Pakistan,’ (accessed November 6, 2008).
  33. 26.
    French Ministry of Defence, ‘Delegation for Strategic Affairs: NATO Operations,’ (accessed May 23, 2013). France declined NATO’s invitation to ‘participate directly’ in the Alliance’s Training Mission in Iraq (NTM-I), yet added its financial contribution to the Allies’ in 2005.Google Scholar
  34. 27.
    Stéphane Abrial, interview, in Romain Rosso, ‘Retour dans l’OTAN: le satisfecit du général Abrial’, L’Express, May 27, 2010, Scholar
  35. 28.
    Similarly, France is second-in-command at JFC Brunssum, The Netherlands, alternating with the UK.Google Scholar
  36. 29.
    ‘La France prend la tête des forces terrestres de la NRF 2014’,
  37. 30.
    Cour des Comptes [Court of Auditors], ‘Les personnels français mis à la disposition du commandement intégré de l’OTAN’, Communication à la Commission des Finances, de l’économie générale et du contrôle budgétaire de l’Assemblée nationale, La Réintégration de la France dans le commandement intégré de l’OTAN: quels coûts et quelles pistes d’économies possibles?, September 2012, 33–38. While original intentions were at 1332, a slightly lower figure (925) also appears in the report, with further reduction at 901 forecast for the rest of the decade, thanks to the organisational restructuring of the Alliance currently underway; Cour des Comptes, 10.Google Scholar
  38. 31.
    European Council on Foreign Relations [ECFR], European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2014, 16.
  39. 32.
    Michael M. Harrison, The Reluctant Ally: France and Atlantic Security (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981)Google Scholar
  40. 32a.
    Frédéric Bozo, Où en est l’Alliance atlantique? L’improbable partenariat (Paris: IFRI, 1998)Google Scholar
  41. 32b.
    Frank Costigliola, France and the United States: The Cold Alliance Since World War II (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992)Google Scholar
  42. 32c.
    Marvin R. Zahniser, Uncertain Friendship: American-French Diplomatic Relations Through the Cold War (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1975)Google Scholar
  43. 32d.
    Edgar S. Furniss, Jr., France, Troubled Ally (New York: Praeger, 1960)Google Scholar
  44. 32e.
    Jean Guisnel, Les Pires amis du monde: les relations franco-américaines à la fin du XXesiècle (Paris: Stock, 1999)Google Scholar
  45. 32f.
    Charles G. Cogan, Oldest Allies, Guarded Friends: The United States and France Since 1940 (Wesport, CT: Praeger, 1994)Google Scholar
  46. 32g.
    Pierre Melandri, ‘The Troubled Friendship: France and the United States, 1945–1989’, in No End to Alliance: The United States and Western Europe. Past, Present and Future, dir. Geir Lundestadt (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1998). Scholar
  47. 33.
    Paul Belkin, ‘NATO’s Chicago Summit’, CRS Report to Congress (14 May 2012), 4.Google Scholar
  48. 34.
    French Ministry of Defence, The White Paper, 60.Google Scholar
  49. 35.
    Kemal Dervis, Vice President and Director, Global Economy and Development, The Brookings Institution, ‘Europe’s Vital French Connection’, Opinion, September 12, 2012.Google Scholar
  50. 36.
    Cour des Comptes, 65.Google Scholar
  51. 37.
    Yearly increases in both civilian and military expenditures (Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence combined) solely due to reintegration from 2012 were estimated at a minimum €54M, with a peak at €75M in 2020. Cour des Comptes, 12.Google Scholar
  52. 38.
    Cour des Comptes, 69, 9–10.Google Scholar
  53. 39.
    Cour des Comptes, 72, 10.Google Scholar
  54. 40.
    Cour des Comptes, 64, 12. Total NATO budget for 2011 was quoted at €2,419.25.Google Scholar
  55. 41.
    Cour des Comptes, 118–22. In similar prospective fashion, the 2013 White Paper also made room for the country’s (re)industrial(ization) concerns when it comes to Euro-Atlantic relations: ‘On the industrial level, the cooperation framework arising from smart defence should take into account the need to promote projects initiated by the European defence industry, in order to preserve its strengths in cutting-edge technologies and high-added-value production’. White Book, 2013, 61.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anglo-American StudiesUniversity Sorbonne NouvelleParis 3France
  2. 2.Department of Political StudiesQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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