Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 367–378 | Cite as

Stepping up to reintegration: French security policy between transatlantic and European defence during and after the Cold War

  • Luca RattiEmail author


This paper discusses French views of transatlantic and European defence from the late 1940s to France’s ‘return’ to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2009. It argues that, while until the early 1950s the French Government viewed transatlantic and West European security cooperation as mutually reinforcing enterprises, by the end of that decade French decision-makers had developed conflicting perceptions of transatlantic and European defence. During the 1960s, the dominating political discourse in the Fifth Republic portrayed relations between Atlantic and European solidarity as a ‘zero-sum’ game: What was good for the Alliance was bad for Europe and vice versa. President Charles de Gaulle advocated the creation of a European ‘Third Force’, although links with NATO were never outright severed. During the 1970s and early 1980s, a ‘zero-sum’ attitude to Atlantic and European defence consolidated although as the Cold War came to a close, Mitterrand started a selective but steady re-engagement with the Alliance. By the late 1990s, during the presidency of Jacques Chirac, France was once again a de facto full member of NATO, although full reintegration was completed only in April 2009. This paper suggests that France’s return to ‘NATO’ marked no dramatic U-turn in French security policy; rather it was the result of a gradual and steady evolution, which was triggered by the crisis of the East-West structure of international politics during the 1980s.


transatlantic defence NATO Cold War zero-sum game France reintegration 


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Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.History of International RelationsUniversity of Rome 3RomeItaly

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