From R. Nicholas Burns, Damon Wilson & Jeff Lightfoot, the New Atlanticist:  [French President Francois] Hollande’s commitment to keep France within NATO’s integrated military command will be an important early commitment. The key question for France’s allies is whether France will continue to pursue its national interests working through the Alliance and in partnership with allies when appropriate, or revert to a strategy of distancing itself from NATO and the United States. An Atlanticist France does not, of course, mean Paris must always work through NATO; but it should seek to do so when partnering with the United States to respond to key global security issues. . . .

France’s new president, François Hollande, will head to the NATO Chicago summit just two weeks after his victory at the polls. His approach will determine whether France remains aligned with Washington on major strategic issues such as Iran and Syria. Will France undermine Alliance cohesion in Afghanistan by removing French troops in 2012 as President Hollande has promised, or will it keep its commitments to NATO to remain through 2014? And will he keep France united with its NATO allies on missile defense against Iran?

These are critical issues for the future of France and the place it occupies within the Atlantic Alliance. For Europe to remain an effective partner of the United States, it needs a strong, strategically savvy, and ambitious France, especially because of the unique contribution France is able to make in the Middle East and Africa, whether acting within NATO or alone. Europe and the Atlantic community need Paris to sustain its current Atlanticist commitments, regardless of which personality and party govern France throughout the coming decade.

R. Nicholas Burns, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, is professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics at the Harvard Kennedy School and a board director of the Atlantic Council. Damon Wilson is executive vice president of the Atlantic Council. Jeff Lightfoot is deputy director of the Council’s International Security Program. This piece is adapted from the Atlantic Council publication “Anchoring the Alliance.”