Saturday, May 17, 2008

Britain and France Step towards the New Atlantic Century



The Anglo-French Summit on March 26 and 27 in London will be a landmark in the future of the Atlantic alliance. As shown in the Franco-American relations, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has impressed his willingness to develop strategic partnership with Anglo-Saxon powers.

Throughout the postwar era, Britain and France have been frequently at odds in many issues on global security, Atlantic diplomacy, European integration, and so forth. Meanwhile, Germany and France have shed World War hostility dramatically. The Anglo-French strategic partnership will change interactions among major Atlantic powers: the United States, Britain, France, and Germany. As British Conservative Party Leader David Cameron said at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Europe has to make substantial commitment to develop the Atlantic alliance furthermore, which cannot be achieved through efforts by a couple of European nations. However, close Anglo-French defense initiative will stimulate active European involvement in global security. At the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, France has reintegrated itself to NATO military command structure.

In order to symbolize friendship between Britain and France, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Nicolas Sarkozy visited the Emirates Stadium which is the home of Arsenal FC, a soccer team of the English Premier League (See the video). Prior to Sarkozy’s visit to London, the Economist talked about the dawn of new Anglo-French relations. His declaration to send more troops to Afghanistan pleased British opinion leaders. Unlike his Gaullist predecessors, Sarkozy does not push Euro-skeptic Britain hard to commit to ESDP (the European Security and Defence Policy) over NATO (“Anglo-French Relations: An Entente in London”; March 19, 2008).

John K. Glenn, Director of Foreign Policy at the German Marshall Fund, concludes his survey that America and Europe are nonetheless converging on some issues, principally on the threats that face them. Europeans are more alarmed than they were about Islamist fundamentalism, for example, and America is waking up to global warming. And he notes that on some questions about the use of force France is as close to America as Britain is. (“Britain and America: Anglo-Saxon Attitudes”; Economist; March 27, 2008)

Though new Atlanticism is under attack by the Socialists at home (“France and Defence: Gaullist No More?”; Economist; April 3, 2008), Sarkozy does not simply respond to pressure from the United States, Britain, Canada, and the Netherland. 

Charles Grant and Tomas Valasek, Director and Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the Centre for European Reform respectively, point out practical motivations of Nicolas Sarkoy’s pro-American, British, and NATO policy. Through full NATO membership and sending troops in Afghanistan, France can achieve symbolic and geopolitical success. France has been exploring to expand EU role in European defense, but Given the limited quantities of personnel and equipment that European governments can provide, NATO and the EU need to work more closely together. Under Chirac, French officials often blocked such co-operation; now they encourage it.” Both Britain and America welcomes his decision (“Sarkozy's bold European defence initiative”; Financial Times; 24 March, 2008).

At the press conference, Prime Minister Gordon Brown concluded this summit as the following.

Together, we will address the challenges of this new global era. Together, we are well placed to do so. Our two countries are at the heart of what we want to be: an outward-looking and globally-focused Europe. We both favour a strong relationship with our American partners. We agree that only by working together can we confront the challenges we face from terrorism, climate change, poverty, disease and failed states. We have agreed that we will deepen and strengthen the partnership between our two countries. We will turn the entente cordiale into the entente amicale in the following ways of working together in the future.

Tomas Valasek at the Centre for European Reform analyzes the reality behind President Sarkozy’s quest for improving relations with Britain and the United States in a recent policy brief (“France, NATO, and European Defence”; Centre for European Reform; 12 May 2008). France had been insisting that the EU should play more active role in European security since the launch of ESDP at the meeting between President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Tony Blair in St Malo in 1998. However, both Britain and the United States have been in favor of NATO supremacy over the EU, as far as security issues are concerned.

However, the Sarkozy administration has changed approaches, instead of provoking defense policy rivalry between NATO and the EU. Valasek argues the following.

Sarkozy does not share Chirac’s penchant for competing with America, and he and his team are more keenly aware of the insecurity around Europe’s borders. So they have essentially told NATO that France will stop playing politics with defence, and that both the EU and NATO should get on with the job of building and operating military forces.

Valasek points out that Sarkozy wants France to be at the heart of NATO rather than to stay outside of US led Atlantic security organization. This is why he visited London to advance relations with Britain, and declared to rejoin NATO command structure and send forces to Afghanistan at the Bucharest Summit of the Atlantic alliance. In other words, President Sarkozy explores to expand French influence on trans-Atlantic security, not thinks of subordinating to Britain and America. Remember this, anti-Anglo-Saxon politicians!

In return, Valasek recommends that Britain agree with France to strengthen EU defense policy.

Regardless of the Atlantic command structure, both Britain and France are developing next generation aircraft carriers (CVF or Future Aircraft Carriers for Britain, and PA2 or Porte-Avions No2 for France) through a joint venture. This project is a Concorde of the 21st century. For detail, see the following links to British MoD (1, 2, and 3). Also, Navy Matters, an affiliated website of UK National Defence Association, tells further in detail about CVF projects in both countries. This site is also linked to some useful sources in French.

The Brown-Sarkozy summit is an important step of the Atlantic security for the future. Europe can get out of post-modern daydream, and confront critical threats to our liberal world order. A new Anglo-French entente will lead Europe to the new era.
Picture: Sarkozy se joindra à la ligue d’Anglo-Saxon? (“Britain and America: Anglo-Saxon Attitudes”; Economist; March 27, 2008)