DAMON WILSON: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Atlantic Council. We’re delighted to have you with us this morning and delighted to have this distinguished panel here to talk about NATO France. Thanks to Jeff Lightfoot, our panel today is going from oui to fait accompli, “France’s Normalization with NATO.”
My name is Damon Wilson. I’m the director of the International Security Program here at the Atlantic Council, and I’m very pleased to have joining us Ambassador Hunter on the Atlantic Council Board of Directors, as well as Camille Grand, visiting from Paris; Jim Townsend here from the administration and Leo Michel here from NDU.
This discussion today is the beginning of a discussion that we’re going to be trying to sustain here at the Atlantic Council over the coming year on the importance of France to our strategic relationship with the United States, and particularly France and the alliance.
It will be a priority for our programming, for our attention at the Atlantic Council, as well as we work with our strategic advisors group, Harlan Ullman here, and others, as members of our SAG, which will be taking forward work this year on the strategic concept as the alliance goes through the formal process of developing a new roadmap for the alliance.
We hope to have an ongoing discussion of France, its relationship with NATO, and the context of much of our SAG work on the strategic concept as well.
It’s also a parochially important issue for me. I have recently joined the Atlantic Council after serving in government service, where I had the opportunity to work very closely at the National Security Council with the Elysee over the past essentially two years and sort of laying the groundwork for helping facilitate France’s normalization with the alliance, France’s reintegration with the Integrated Military Command.
And it’s something that was a bit of a delicate dance handled between the White House and the Elysee to help lay the groundwork, knowing that we have failed to succeed – we had failed at this effort in the past and were intent on not having it fail again this time. So I bring a little bit of a parochial perspective to why we want to help see this process succeed and be a part of facilitating the discussion here at the Atlantic Council.
Our goal at the time was to really help lock in a strategic outlook of our partner from Paris that saw working with the United States as a source of strength for France’s position in the world, saw working with the alliance as a source of strength for France, and to lock in that strategic perspective and to ensure that this wasn’t something that was temporary and assure that this was something that could endure beyond President Sarkozy.
So we’ve gathered this panel here to have a discussion on addressing a series of questions: What will French reintegration mean for NATO as an alliance, and what does it mean for ESDP? What will change at NATO headquarters, at SHAPE, ACT throughout the command structure? Will there be an impact on NATO operations?
Does France’s decision to normalize its ties with NATO represent a broader change in approach to the alliance? Will greater French ownership impact French policy towards the alliance? Will France be less likely to constrain NATO’s reach to support a more cooperative NATO-EU relationship?
How will President Sarkozy’s view of the United States and NATO itself be sustained beyond his presidency? And how will the French government deal with its domestic political environment to ensure that this arrangement is an enduring one?
What will happen to France’s military fort structure itself? How will France relate to NATO’s defense planning processes, to NATO nuclear policy? And is Paris fully prepared to take over the two major commands of allied command transformation, as well as Lisbon? How will French senior leadership impact the military side of NATO, and what are the prospects that the new French leadership will make ACT more relevant to NATO’s routine business?
So we’re pleased to have with us Ambassador Bob Hunter, who I’ll introduce first – as I mentioned, a board director of the Atlantic Council, but currently at RAND. Ambassador Hunter, who is our host today, was also U.S. ambassador to NATO under President Clinton, where he helped lead the evolution of the alliance to a new NATO, a new alliance.
He also served as director of Western European Affairs and later director of Middle Eastern Affairs on the National Security Council during the Carter administration, as well as foreign policy advisor to Senator Edward Kennedy, and foreign and domestic policy advisor to Vice President Humphrey. Ambassador Hunter served on the White House staff in the Johnson administration and in the U.S. Department of the Navy, and we’re pleased that he’s here with us today.
We also have with us today from Paris, Camille Grand, who is the managing director of the Fondation pour la recherche stratégique. He was the host in March of President Sarkozy for the announcement of France’s normalization and return to the alliance, and has played an important behind-the-scenes role in Paris in helping to develop French policy towards the alliance.
But prior to his time at the foundation, he has served in government. He was the deputy director, or the equivalent of a deputy assistant secretary for disarmament and multilateral affairs, and the director for strategic security and disarmament affairs at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He also served as a deputy diplomatic advisor to the French minister of defense, Mrs. Alliot-Marie, where he served as an expert also on nuclear policy and nonproliferation in the Strategic Affairs department of the MOD.
We’re pleased that you’ve been able to break away from your teaching courses at Sciences Po as well, to join us for today’s discussion.
We also are pleased to have to have Jim Townsend back to the Atlantic Council. Jim is currently the deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO Policy at OSD, responsible for the day-to-day relationship between the United States, its NATO partners, NATO, the EU.
But prior to this, as many of you know, he was my predecessor here at the Atlantic Council, running this program and helping to shape the Atlantic Council’s voice on Euro-Atlantic security issues. And for that, I’m very personally grateful.
Prior to his time at the Atlantic Council, Jim had a long and distinguished career at the Pentagon, working on European and NATO policy issues for much of his career, playing a key role on the debates on NATO enlargement, on the Balkans, and building the coalition during the first Gulf War. He is also from my alma mater of Duke, so it’s another common tie that I’m appreciative of.
We also welcome Leo Michel to our panel today, who has been an outspoken voice on France, ESDP issues. He is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Strategic studies, concentrating on trans-Atlantic security policy.
Prior to this he was director for NATO policy within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and also very much a DOD or OSD alumni of 17 years of service working on a range of trans-Atlantic security issues, including nuclear policy issues as well. He also worked as a legislative aid for foreign and defense affairs in the U.S. for Congress, and a reporter for the French media at previous times.
So with that, let me turn it over to Bob Hunter, who will give a bit of a perspective of the broader perspectives of the implications of this normalization process between France and the alliance. Then we’ll turn to Camille for the voice from Paris for a French perspective on how this will unfold.
Jim Townsend will then address this from a U.S. government perspective, and Leo will provide some wrap-up commentary to pick up on some of the more controversial issues.
Ambassador Hunter, we’re in your hands.
ROBERT HUNTER: Bienvenue a l’OTAN. I’m so delighted that after 43 years NATO has decided to rejoin France. (Laughter.) I have to tell you, it was my ambition almost from the very beginning to see that this relationship could be renewed.
And there are a couple of things I think one has to recall, something that’s often misspoken here. France never left NATO, never left Article V, never left its fundamental commitment to the alliance and a recognition that the alliance was going to do the heavy lifting when it came to things like an Article V matter during the Cold War.
Secondly, as any U.S. military person who has served in Europe in recent years will tell you, we’ve had no better ally. Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan today – they say if you want to have somebody in the foxhole next to you, you know, a Brit on the one hand and a Frenchman on the other. Of course, getting in between, you know, can be a bit of a problem.
When I went to NATO in ’93, one of my ambitions was to see what I could do, and so in July of ’93 I struck a deal with Jacques Glow (ph), the French ambassador to NATO, which was on my part, I was going to get the United States to get off its ridiculous position of opposing a vigorous WEU, or now called ESDP, and he would work to try to have France rejoin the integrated structure.
We almost got there except for an accident that occurred in August of 1996 when the wrong people were in the room and it came a cropper over the command in Naples. But we got about 95 percent of the way there.
And as France rejoined the military committee and started sending people to NATO, they sent their very best – one of the striking things. And in fact, today one of the great emblems of what I think is going to happen with the French role is that they have acquired two major commands in NATO: Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, very close to Yorktown where they helped us win our Revolutionary War – we all remember that.
And they’re sending General Stéphane Abrial, the chief of staff of the air force, somebody with a lot of trans-Atlantic experience, but it shows a major commitment. And Joint Forces Command in Lisbon, which is the next level down but is the most important command at that level – they’re sending General Philippe Stoltz, somebody who also has a highly distinguished career.
So this isn’t just something they’re doing with a lick and a promise; it’s something they’re doing very seriously.
I have to say that of course in France this is still quite controversial. I suspect, however, that this will outlive the current president, who’s taking the heat. There are still some who will resist it.
I recall, oh, about 10 years go I gave a speech at the Old Boys of ENA, I think it was, or old boys and girls, held in the French senate, and I said, I want to quote the conditions for France rejoining the integrated command structure, and I quoted the president of the republic, and I listed these conditions and I said they’d been fulfilled.
I said, but however, what I’ve just read to you is not from the current president. This was from the press conference of the 23rd of February, 1966 by President de Gaulle, and the conditions have been fulfilled.
Well, we got to Q&A and this tall gentleman stood up and started denouncing the president of France for having betrayed all the great heritage going all the way back to Joan of Arc, you know, for doing this. It was just – oh, it was terrible. And I turned to a Belgian friend and I said – Qui est ca?. He said – oh, c’est l’amiral. I said – L’amiral qui?. He said—Oh, L’amiral de Gaulle. (Laughter.) It was his son having the last gasp.
Well, I think for me the great hope in this and expectation, and I think opportunity, is not just France being able to play its proper role in bringing all that it does to the alliance, but in particular the fact it has an important foot both in NATO and in the European Union and can be a bridge between them. This is going to be the future, breaking down that barrier between these two bodies.
When I was at NATO I used to joke that NATO and the EU were two institutions living in the same city on separate planets. France has a chance to play this role. It has ambitions in both. You’ll note what the president of the republic said in his statement. Long speech; you ought to read it.
He used the word “independence” at least 30 times and he used the idea “European defense” about 40 times, all of which I think are now fully consistent with what we’d like to see. That old battle is over. We’ve moved beyond the War of the Roses, so to speak.
In addition, being at ACT, I think that adds to the capacity of France to help promote what I think is one of the key things for NATO in the future, which NATO now calls “the comprehensive approach,” which is the civilian and the military working together, sometimes by NATO, sometimes NATO and the EU, sometimes with the United Nations. And what I would like to see is ACT work not just for NATO but also under General Abrial’s command, working for the European Union as well.
So I’ll shut up at this point. We have a wonderful opportunity with Camille here with all of his background. I was kind of hoping – I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s now gone by but I can say it. I was kind of hoping he would be in the secretary general’s office come August at NATO, working for the new NATO Secretary General Michèle Alliot-Marie. I didn’t get my wish, but maybe next time.
CAMILLE GRAND: Thank you very much. Thank you. One of the frightening things about this presentation is that I’m probably going to be saying lots of things that are very similar to what Bob just said – (chuckles) – but I’ll try to do that.
When the decision about participation in a NATO infrastructure was taken, there was an interesting paper issued in Washington. It was one of the only ones that criticized the decision and was calling on the U.S. government to oppose it, which was a paper released jointly by the Heritage Foundation and the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, which said that that was a French plot to ruin NATO.
So I’m going to describe this plot to you and tell you a little more about it, and you’ll make your own minds about that.
I think the first thing is really to look at this as a process. Of course Sarkozy made the symbolic decision, but it’s very important to bear in mind what happened in the last 15 years in terms of going back into the structure and how did that work?
It’s really a normalization process which brought, indeed, France and NATO closer, and both structures in a way making steps to each other in many ways. If you look back at de Gaulle’s position of ’66 – I mean, since the ’70s you’ve seen steps of making things work, and that went much faster after the end of the Cold War. It was a socialist present. It was Mitterrand who authorized the French to go back into the Military Committee.
There were – of course the wars in the Balkans played a critical role in that as France became a very significant contributor, and large amounts of forces were engaged in both IFOR, SFOR and then KFOR, and in the Kosovo operations, including and assuming they took commanding positions in that context. The same is true for Afghanistan.
And in a way, over the last 10, 15 years, France has become a major contributor to all NATO operations, ranking from first contributor to fourth or fifth, depending on the mission and the time. But I think it’s interesting.
There was indeed a process towards normalization, engaging in the mid ’90s by the newly elected President Chirac, which was meant to lead to pretty much the same result as today, and as Bob reminded us, sort of failed on somehow misunderstandings over the Naples Command.
But further down the road we participated actively in the creation of ACT. We were already having a very senior position in Norfolk for that, and in the NRF. And even before the decision was taken there was more than 250 French officers inserted into the various NATO command already. So for that I think it’s important to point at the fact that it’s really the end of a process that opens to a new era.
So why did Sarkozy make such a decision, and how was he in a position domestically to take such a decision? I think that there are – I listed five features that are important.
I think that the first key feature is indeed the 15 years of engagements in NATO operations, that have basically convinced both the military and the political level that it was interesting to be part of the entire planning process, and that made sense, and that, you know, the sort of half-pragmatic approach of having permanent missions and people involved in the planning without being part of some of the key committees was a bit ridiculous.
Second feature which has to do with domestic politics is a form of generational change. Sarkozy does belong to the Gaullist Party, and he started his career in the Rassemblement pour la Rèpublic and has been really a key figure of that party ever since he went into politics.
But he’s an outspoken Atlanticist and pro-American, so in a way – and I think it has to do with both personal beliefs and a sort of generational change that – and since he saw no problem in reversing a policy that had been seen as one of the pillars of the sort of Gaullist diplomacy for more than four decades.
And probably his predecessors, even though they each took steps, couldn’t do it or didn’t dare doing it, for generational reasons. For Mr. Chirac, the Gaullist legacy was weighted very heavily and was difficult for him to, at certain points, take domestic and political risks. For the socialists or Mitterrand, or for Giscard d’Estaing in the ’70s, it was complicated because they were not Gaullists themselves.
But beyond the individual, I think also the strength of the symbolism had vanished as time passes. And I think it is pretty well understood that the setting is very different from what it used to be 40 years ago.
My third point, which is a bit difference from the debate in the mid-‘90s, is the maturity of European defense. By that I’m not saying that ESDP has become a full-fledged military structure or military alliance with a full range of operational ability, but I think the fact that this decision came right after the 10th anniversary of the ESDP of the St. Malo summit is no mistake.
In many ways, the debate between ESDP and NATO – or ESDP, whatever you want to name it; I mean, WEU, European Alliance, whatever, was central in the European security debate for a decade.
And I do really think it’s no – for most of it and most of us – not all of us, unfortunately – behind us, and that in a way, most players and commentators would agree that both do coexist and that there is a value of having both, and do work in relative harmony, and that the issue of competition is no longer the central feature of that debate.
The problem – my former Minister used to say that the problem is not that we have too many organizations but we face too many crises with too little capabilities. And I think that’s basically a sort of key element of that, and the sense that ESDP has no – basically got its own structures, is running around 23 operations, both civilian and military, makes it something that is not virtual.
And I think it did help in the domestic debate as well because, you know, European defense was not a dream anymore but something that had some sort of existence, even though one would argue it’s still a young child in day care, but it’s there.
Fortunately, NATO has changed, and the NATO France is, in a way, coming back into – is very different from the NATO it left, for obvious historical geopolitical reasons, but also in a way, the new NATO that is doing business out of area does meet some of the French criteria for both independence and political control in decision-making processes.
And, finally, the U.S. policy has changed as well, and I think it’s part of the decision. The U.S. policy is far more relaxed that it used to be about both European defense and, I think moreover, for the Europeans in NATO.
And this has started, I think – I would say it would be fair to really point at there were several moments in that process, but I think it really became very obvious during Bush’s second term when the issue was no longer – it seemed very, very problematic. And I think this is an important policy choice on the part of the U.S. government that made things very important.
So how will this be – the decision of full participation be implemented, and what are the challenges facing the French military and the French government in that process?
I think as far as preparing the military is concerned – and, Damon, you raised that issue – of course it’s going to be difficult in sort of human resources terms to fill the 1,250 positions in the military structure that France is entitled to.
MR. WILSON: And which it pays for itself.
MR. GRAND: And which it pays for itself, because it goes far beyond the 17 offices of – general offices’ positions, so those 25 stars aren’t going to be quite – sometimes there is going to be some stress on that.
But I have no doubt that the French will find resources in a process that is going to take place over several years, because in 2009 you get only about 200 in, and that’s going to be a sort of incremental process. It’s not as if, you know, certainly you are pouring in 1,200 officers and NCOs into the structure without knowing where you would put them. It’s going to take a little time.
MR. WILSON: We all hope.
MR. GRAND: So I think that there are a number of qualified officers. They’ve valuable and many of them have participated in NATO operations, and probably in very practical terms, one of the challenges is to find NCOs with good English to fill the starting positions, and that’s – so at the much more junior level.
And then I think there is a learning curve. That is, you need to fill in junior positions with people that will become fully aware of NATO procedures in order for them to come back for a second round at more senior positions.
So this is going to take, I mean, several years, but I think the process is interesting. And the fact that, as Ambassador Hunter was pointing out, the very, very best have been appointed to the most senior positions, and some of us in the room have had the chance of working fairly closely with General Abrial, and Stéphane is really one of the best and the brightest in the French, not only the Air Force but armed forces.
And so I really think it’s an incredible clever choice on the part of the government to put him there, because he’s really one of the – is both a very, very solid and military mind, but he’s also a political mind. So I think it’s a good choice. So I really think we have a – I don’t see major problems in implementing the decision in technical terms.
The second thing is, in terms of will it change – one of the questions – the point is, will it change the French strategic thinking, strategic force structure? Honestly, I don’t expect that to happen significantly.
What I mean by that is, A, the decision of full participation was taken into – as part of the general strategic defense review and defense review of the Livre Blanc, défense et la sécuritié nationale of 2008. So the reorganization of the French forces that is underway was taking into account that. So it’s not as if we were – you know, our participation meant that we had to reorganize everything.
Secondly, for most of it, the French military structures have already been fully reorganized over the last 10, 15 years to meet NATO criteria, and, you know, the French have been extremely keen on getting the right certifications and so on and so forth, so I don’t expect that to have been –
And, lastly, I don’t think the French made that decision in order to allow deeper cuts or deep cuts in the defense budget. Honestly, that’s never been part of the debate at any stage. So you know, the point is not in, we’re back in NATO so we can finally spend as little as some of our friends in Europe. That’s not part of the equation.
As far as the French strategic thinking is concerned, I think it’s evolving slowly following the decision, but it’s – President Sarkozy insisted on the fact that some of the fundamental issues were not at stake in this decision, and he made French – a national balance in the decision-making process when it comes to engaging troops or the preservation of a fully independent deterrent were things he insisted on.
So I mean, those issues will remain part of the sort of defense and security policy. So I don’t see that really change. We might, maybe in the Q&A, go into the debate about the Nuclear Planning Group and the fact that we didn’t join that particular group, because I think it’s quite interesting.
My guess on that is that it was primarily a political decision, based on the fact that one of the key elements of the domestic debate was to make clear that the deterrent was not put within a NATO common structure, and then NPG became the symbol of that.
And also I think there is, rightly or wrongly, a certain level of lack of interest for the NPG in the French system, for the fact that it’s not really where the action is, even when it comes to nuclear policy. And, lastly, in terms of security policy, I think the French ambition on ESDP remains. It has not been put aside.
So how will – I think when assessing this decision in longer term, I think there are three benchmarks that will play an important role in doing that. So I’ll wrap up around these, because obviously, you know, the logic behind the military decision is obvious. And it is very clear when you talk to the French military that they see the benefits of being part of a structure, both as an institution and in practical terms when planning for operations or commanding them.
But on the political side, you know, basically we’re left with – when we look at this decision in 10 years from now, what will make a difference is was this decision purely a sort of military reorganization with limited political impact, or is it something that adds more of a political impact? And my three benchmarks are fairly simple.
One of them is, have France and Europe gained influence in NATO through that decision? I mean, if you look at access to key jobs, it seems to be the case, and we certainly hope to foster the role of ACT in the alliance, and we didn’t take that job as a sort of second choice or anything like that. So it’s really – we do believe in ACT and the role in plays in there, and also in transforming the alliance.
The interesting issue will be also whether, in some of the key decisions, the process leaves more room for the Europeans, both in defining the strategy and the policy elsewhere. And this is not only up to the Americans to allow for more room; it’s up to the Europeans to take their responsibilities, which it’s a tricky thing.
The second benchmark would be as ESDP continues to develop, and that’s probably the issue on which the president was most criticizing in France, you know, basically are you abandoning European defense as objective through this decision?
That’s why there were so many signals sent during the French EU presidency on this. But the key issue is will EU be a more active player in 10 years from now than it is today, or will it mean that basically the EU has sort of shrank to civil military operation?
And, on that, again, it’s complicated to assess now. My assumption was rather optimistic because, again, this should be judged as a process, and if you look at ESDP, what it was 10 years ago and what it has achieved now in terms of operations and having things in Chad and elsewhere, and autonomous operations and things like that, I think you can have good expectations. On the other end, it’s still very complicated to get all the Europeans interested in that.
The third benchmark is, has NATO reformed? And I have pleaded, and I hope it will be the case for France being a very strong reformist within the alliance; that is, to streamline it and make the alliance a sort of more efficient and well-driven organization. ACT is probably one of the places to start with. But it’s interesting.
So those will be very – I think the three benchmarks to assess whether, you know, the political side of the full participation has been successful.
My last point will be on the issue of whether this policy is sustainable and are there chances to see it reversed? My view is that it’s not going to be reversed. I don’t see that happening, first of all because it was a process that is – so it started well before Sarkozy. And, interestingly, some of the most vehement critics of the Sarkozy decisions have been heavily involved in the previous steps. Typically, Villepin is a good example of that.
So you know, even if the president was to lose the next election in 2012, I don’t see any alternative to seriously reversing that in a substantial manner. I mean, the stand might change, the tone might change, but I don’t see anyone pulling back to – the offices out of the structure again and things like that.
And, interestingly, during the debates, most of the opposition had fairly weak arguments outside the managing of the symbol – the value of the symbol. You know, basically I think the strongest argument against was, do we really need it in practical terms, and are the practicalities worth the loss of that symbol?
But I don’t think there was lots of substantive argument, and so I don’t see a reversal possible. It does not, however, mean that France will always be a simple and easy ally and, you know, being a full participant is no – doesn’t mean that it will always be easy to manage, and it might even become more complicated in some cases because there will be more committees in which to block consensus.
But having said that, I certainly think that, you know, basically what Sarkozy did was making obvious what was already pretty much already in the cards, and now it’s – and the implementation itself is a process and will take time.
Thank you very much.
MR. WILSON: Thank you, Camille. I think no one in Washington ever underestimates France as a simple and easy ally –
JIM TOWNSEND: Or the United States, for that matter.
MR. WILSON: Yes, yes. But I think there is a hope and expectation that there will be less of a reason to need to block consensus as we work though theses issues in the committees.
But before I hand it over to Jim to pick this strand up from a U.S. government perspective, I thought it was interesting – first, like your way of framing European defense as a young child in day care. I think it’s come quite a long ways and we know it remains a priority for France, even fully normalized with the alliance.
But it was also reassuring to hear your words about how this is not reversible. You helped lay the intellectual groundwork for this, in some part, and I think that that view is important. But you also cited the change in U.S. policy being far more relaxed towards Europe and European defense.
And I think, as we ask Jim to speak about U.S. policy going forward, I just wanted to say a word about that because I think this was very much a behind-the-scenes, well-orchestrated sort of dance, if you will, between Washington and Paris over the past couple of years, and particularly the Elysee and the White House, where it was clear the concern – our concern was not a strong Europe as a challenger anymore, but our concern was a weak Europe as a partner.
And so, I think on the U.S. side we tried to change the rhetoric of this debate and to lead with a new headline that framed U.S. thinking about this as our desire to see a strong – the U.S. needs a strong Europe as a strong partner. And I think that began to frame the way that we approached the issue publicly, even before President Sarkozy had gotten very far on this.
But the synchronization of the change in the U.S. rhetorical approach to European defense, to begin to put to rest some of the ambiguity of what Washington’s policy was about ESDP, combined with the continuing evolution of French thinking in which a white-paper process – which the French worked incredibly closely with strategic thinkers in the United States, both inside government and outside government.
And if you take a look at the white paper, there are striking similarities in strategic outlook as it evolved in the United States post-9/11 and where France came out on many of these issues that brought a striking similarity and commonality of strategic approach, that led to even more micro-managed orchestration between our two governments, leading up to the Bucharest summit where President Bush and President Sarkozy made two very specific and very orchestrated exchanges on European defense, where President Bush spoke from text, and part of a long intervention where he spoke off the cuff, turned to speak from text about European defense.
And he turned to the text because he knew that was text that had been worked with the Elysee, and a very unusual side of diplomacy, sharing the presidential text of President Bush and President Sarkozy with each other was not something often done in advance between the White House and the Elysee.
But to again, to have the United States put to rest ambiguity on European defense issues and to have the French president speaking out more clearly and favorably in terms of the alliance and France’s role in that all is a prelude to an emphasis under President Sarkozy and the French presidency or the ESDP during the French presidency as a way then to paving the way for the debate within the French National Assembly.
And in a very interesting and important way, this was one of the top issues that we dealt with in the transition to the Obama administration. It’s one of the first issues we took up with General Jim Jones as national security advisor because we were at the peak of consecrating a deal, and a deal in which, having learned lessons from the past of the difficulties we had in the past, where we knew there were a host of issues to be addressed.
And yet we put a lot of those issues on the side and said, if we try to answer all of these questions today, we’ll kill this. It will unravel. So keeping this limited to a small group of decision-makers inside the French system and inside the U.S. system so that the antibodies, as we would say, in our own systems didn’t kill this, focusing in on the top three or four issues that we needed to decide to lock this in, and then recognizing that it would take several years then to continue to clean up, continue to work through the details, and that this would be a process.
And that’s what brings us now to Jim, who now owns the process of helping to ensure that this works. So Jim, we’re looking forward to your perspective on where we are with U.S. government policy moving forward.
MR. TOWNSEND: Well, Damon, thank you very much. And you’ve opened up a real can of worms here because what you said was very important to be known out here, and I would – I’m going to depart from my notes real quick and just say, frankly, this process has been going on as far as wrestling with NATO, wrestling with the French role, wrestling with the U.S. role in Europe from the earliest days of the building of NATO, the WEU, the EU, all of that.
And, frankly, I date it, in the modern period, back to the early ’90s, because that’s when I first had to wrestle with it at the Pentagon. And one of the things – it’s interesting because you really can’t, as you look at this effort by the U.S. and France to produce what we have today, you can’t really date it by an administration or by a lot of the familiar markers we like to use.
It goes back a number of years, and frankly it was our rhetoric and our paranoia on both sides of the Atlantic that got in the way. I guess we had to go through it because the U.S. was also going through a transition in its own mind about its own role from the Cold War to the post-Cold War. What role did we want to play in Europe?
And that bumped up against what role France wanted to play, what role should the European Union play? And so it caused this paranoia to grow up. In the late ’90s – I’m sure Ambassador Hunter remembers so well, and Leo too – we wrestled with all kinds of formula to deal with, you, know, right of first refusal, all kinds of things that – I guess we had to go through that bloodletting to get us to where we are today.
But we’re finally in a right place. There’s a lot of bodies that trail the road behind us getting here. But it has quite an interesting history that deserves a seminar in and of itself, I think.
But to go back to my notes and to romp quickly through it, because I know we’re short on time – and I’m here as part of the administration. I’m not giving you necessarily the administration line; I’m giving you my perspective. I’m not sure the administration would disagree with it necessarily, but just a couple of quick points and then I’m going to hand it over to Leo.
First, I think we ought to tip our hat to the French in terms of the costs that they are bearing to do this. Not a lot of people realize that when you – with this type of reintegration – I think Camille spoke a little bit about it, but there is a lot of cost that’s coming to the French in terms of resources, military and otherwise, to make this work. And I think sticker shock is something that France is having to wrestle with right now, and I think that should be well understood.
The second thing I’d like to say is when you talk about what will we see with French reintegration, I think there’s some in town that thing that the clouds are going to open and rainbows are going to, you know, be apparent and all of a sudden division after division after division of French forces are going to flow into the NATO system and ISAF will double in size with the French Foreign Legion times three being deployed, and all these things, and that’s just not realistic, I think for a lot of reasons.
One is that, as Ambassador Hunter pointed out, it’s not like the French – for years we’ve called it the stealth reintegration of the French military. The French have always played an important role, and frankly on the defense planning side, which is a secret handshake kind of group, so arcane at NATO.
But what’s interesting is as the allies met at NATO to talk about the kinds of resources the alliance might need in 10 years and which allies could bring what, the French were always part of that equation. We would always say, well, the French – we know the French will be there. I mean, they were not part of the defense planning process at that time because they weren’t integrated, but we had to factor the French in because we knew the capabilities were so important for the alliance.
And we knew when the chips were down, the French usually would be there. In fact, I haven’t seen a time when they necessarily weren’t there for an alliance operation, as Camille pointed out. But so what is happening now, in terms of defense planning – so important at NATO – is with the French reintegrated into the military structure and into the defense planning structure, it’s no longer a guessing game. We don’t have to assume. We’ll know. And it’s a good feeling to have that no longer, the guessing game by NATO planners.
I think, also, that if I had to look at something right now in terms of what this French reintegration bring, I would say it’s more psychological and political than anything else. And I say that because with the French reintegration at a very important time for NATO and for the trans-Atlantic community and for those institutions that bring about our security – both the EU and NATO – French reintegration is a tremendous vote of confidence in the alliance. French reintegration is a vote of confidence in the trans-Atlantic community in providing an example to the rest of Europe of a common effort towards meeting these challenges coming at us.
I think that that psychological aspect is true as we look at reform at NATO, as we look at a lot of things the speakers before me have talked about in terms of NATO/EU, the French reintegration gives it a great psychological boost to take the ball forward and I think, for me, at this point, that’s one of the big plusses of having this French reintegration.
Another point is that in terms of what does France bring – and I think this is so key. France brings, by its history and by its DNA in a lot of ways, strategic thought to the alliance. And that seems common sense but, having worked at NATO, having wrestled with questions and issues at NATO – good ideas and strategic thought are at a premium. Just because you increase the numbers of allies around the table doesn’t necessarily mean that your quality of thinking goes up, necessarily. We’ve got tough problems and France has always been at the table on all of them – on the political side helping to deal with this.
But what is so good to me is that this history of French military thought, French strategic thought – if you go back in history, it’s the French that have led the charge so many times. I mean, the Germans and Klauzwitz not withstanding, French military thought has helped think through a lot of important issues over time. And having France go into ACT and bringing this DNA that has with it the ability to take on the big picture and to wrestle with the large issues, is tremendous with the alliance. I think I’d rather have that than four or five divisions of – well, I’ll take the divisions, too – (laughter) – but the important part is that the French will bring this strategic thought.
I made this point to the CHEM – you know, the French military college came by and saw me a few weeks ago at the Pentagon. And I told them this, and their eyes got real big and they said, do we bring this? And I said, yes. I grabbed them by the lapels and shook them and said, wake up, wake up, we’re depending on you. And I think this is going to be a tremendous plus for the alliance.
Just to sum up real quickly, and I can go over my notes with others after the event’s over if you’d like, but we have a lot of work to do. French reintegration into the military structure alliance isn’t a light switch that’s going to be flipped and, all of a sudden, as I said, rainbows and unicorns and things will – we’ve got a tremendous amount of work to do if we’re going to be able to take on the potential and the promise that comes with this energy that France is going to throw into the military structure, particularly at ACT.
There is a time element here that is long term. It’s going to be something that has to evolve and something that we’re going to have to work in over time as France finds its feet in some of these places that, from the outside, looks like it’s not a lot of problems – re-engaging, going on to taking ACT. I think once that integration begins to take place, in fact, it’s going to be a lot of things – it’ll surprise France, it’ll surprise us – but at least we’ll be together in trying to work things, like where ACT should go and other issues like that – defense planning.
I will say that, as Camille said, this process won’t be reversed. I think that’s right. But I will say that we can’t take it for granted, either. I think, like a marriage, it’s something that you work at every day, and I think we’re going to have to work at ensuring that we make sure this French re-integration brings with it the promise and potential for both sides – both for France and what France wants to get out of it, as well as for the alliance.
And I think the final point is that what NATO wants to get out of this is something that the French has stated as being their objective for joining NATO. They said that we don’t want to join a NATO that’s the old NATO. We want to join a NATO that’s reformed.
We’re not there yet. And we’re meeting with, as you know, a French team tomorrow in the Pentagon to go through developing a reform agenda together. And so what I want to see, what my objectives are – and the administration, I think, would agree with this, too – is that DNA, that French DNA, when it comes to strategic thought, when it comes to looking at NATO as an institution that can be reformed and shaped better, what I want to see is that we put that to good use. You know, a reform agenda not just on reforming the way NATO works itself, day-to-day, its nuts and bolts, its mechanisms, but in the strategic concepts as well.
That’s where, in the next year or so, the metric that we’ll be looking at as far as French reintegration. Have we achieved, on both sides, the potential? That’s where we’re going to see a lot of it begin to take shape over the next year, as we look at reforms, as we look at strategic concept.
And I fully take onboard your point about France in terms of not always going to be an easy ally – we’ll still, I am sure, as we do communiqués – France in isolation or France and the U.S. duking it out. But, for me, the good point about that is, when we were in isolation in the past, or wrestling with each other, so many times it was over rhetorical political points. And I hope that as we, once again, work with each other on future issues, communiqués, that type of thing, that it’ll be over big issues of substance that’ll bring about a positive when we finally resolve them between us, instead of just more rhetoric.
MR. WILSON: Jim, thank you. I think, for all of us who’ve done with communiqué drafting, we do look for the day when maybe France and the United States are ganging up on somebody else in isolation – (laughter) – to work out these issues. So with that enthusiasm leading U.S. policy, I think we’ll be in pretty good hands, Jim. Thank you.
LEO MICHEL: Thanks. I don’t want to repeat a lot of the background so what I’d like to do is offer four quick additional or complementary points on my view of the implications for ESDP, and then add a couple of words about NATO nuclear policy.
Here’s what I think about ESDP and the consequences of French normalization. Four quick points: First, this “Trojan Horse” strategy that I’ve heard from some in this country and, frankly, some conservative circles in Europe, I think is a very far-fetched allegation – the view that somehow France wants to normalize its role – assume a greater role – within NATO simply to constrain it and eventually develop an alternative in the EU.
I think it’s particularly incredible when it’s voiced by some of the same folks who used to tell us that France’s a la carte approach to NATO made it a less than reliable ally. So you can’t have it both ways. I do believe that every step that France will take to improve the cohesiveness and the efficiency of NATO whether it’s in terms of doctrine or capabilities, interoperability or operational experience, even in defense industrial cooperation. All of those will strengthen, sooner or later, European defense.
But my view – this is a win-win outcome. It’s not a cover for some nefarious French plot to hobble NATO. And I would add, a little bit, too – we’ve mentioned some of the numbers and two of the top command positions – I don’t view them as symbolic, and I would also point out that in other parts of the peacetime military establishment, some of the French flag positions will be important.
After all, the SACEUR representative now to the military committee will be a French flag officer. The deputy commander at Joint Force Command Brunssum, which is in the operational chain of command for ICAF, will be French. So will the deputy commander of the things like the naval component in the U.K. at Northwood. So I think there’s quite a bit of substance, not to mention all of the important work done by the colonels, the lieutenant colonels, and, as well, the NCOs who will be in the NATO structure.
Second point: I don’t think, either, that the French are about to abandon ESDP. We will see continuing French interest in autonomous EU operations, such as Atalanta, which is the anti-piracy operation off Somalia, whose mandate was recently extended for another year.
I think the French will continue to be interested in an EU role in building capacity in Africa, for example, in training Somali security forces. And they’re going to remain being interested in expanding the activities of the European Defense Agency to improve European capabilities.
And frankly, depending on the specific issue, the French will get a lot of support from their other EU members. But the third point is, I think the French themselves are coming to accept the limitations of ESDP. The recently ended – it concluded in March – the operation in Chad and the CAR, was, perhaps, more complex and certainly more costly than some in power had anticipated. And the French, instead of playing a less-than 50 percent role, had, in some respects, to assume a more-than 50-percent burden there.
And I don’t, frankly, see a lot of other EU members interested in expansive or highly risky land operations in Africa, especially given the increased financial pressures and some of the modest increases in their forces and commitments in Afghanistan.
I’d add, in this context, it’s unlikely that the French haven’t noticed what’s going on in the U.K. And if the conservatives return to power in the coming year, I think that even relatively modest proposals to expand ESDP operations and activities are likely going to be met rather skeptically in 10 Downing Street and Whitehall.
Fourth, I think there’s a good chance that we will see improvements over time in relations between NATO and the EU. It’s been mentioned, of course, of a greater convergence between France and the U.S. and other NATO allies in the conference of approach, the blending of civilian and military capabilities for complex operations such as Afghanistan.
And I think having a French commander at ACT, which has responsibilities for doctrine development and for lessons learned, puts more French skin in the game, so to speak. And I think combined with the French roll in Lisbon, in Brunson, and elsewhere, I think this augurs well over time for improved cooperation between NATO and the EU in Kosovo – most importantly, I would say in Afghanistan. And perhaps, even at some point, in Africa.
One specific thing on defense capabilities – Jim Townsend will recall, one of my favorite speeches that I drafted before we were exchanging positions, was a proposal by Secretary Cohen in August of 2000 – this was the former defense minister of NATO, where he really changed the U.S. tone at that time towards ESDP. And he called for a single system of defense planning – a shared system between NATO and the EU. In fact, we gave it the acronym ESDPS just to make it more EU-friendly.
The French government at the time, or the French representatives, complained at the time. They said they loved his speech except for this item because they thought it was trying to bring France into NATO through the back door. I would say that now that France has walked through the front door to participate fully in NATO structures, it might, at some time, be worth re-looking at this idea of harmonizing the defense requirements and capabilities enhancement of the two organizations with a new look.
Finally, just a couple words on nuclear policy: You can read in the French white book what they’ve said about the nuclear policy. They’ve put forward their red lines about autonomy for the French deterrent and so forth.
The current French position, as I understand it, is that France will not rejoin, at least not in the near term to the nuclear planning group – the NPG – although they might consider, I’m told, eventually serving as a role of observers. The French white book also said that France proposed to have a dialogue with European partners on nuclear issues. But frankly, other Europeans aren’t interested in having a dialogue on nuclear policy within the EU.
I think, over time, that France cannot help but notice that among some of its allies – European allies; some of its close allies – there’s been a weakening of commitment to the importance of nuclear deterrence. And I don’t think this is a French interest. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a U.S. interest. And I think that the French at some time might reconsider the merits of joining a body at NATO where nuclear issues could be discussed, but, perhaps, in combination with other issues, such as nonproliferation and missile defense – because defense, deterrence and nonproliferation form a whole.
And I think a French presence there could be very helpful in, shall we say, encouraging some of its European allies to also think seriously about these issues. And I do agree that a lot of the success of normalization doesn’t depend just on France. It depends on a U.S. attitude, which I’m happy to see has been aggressively much more positive towards this, and also the commitment of other Europeans as well, both in terms of capabilities and sharing the risks of operations.
MR. WILSON: Leo, thank you for those thoughtful words. We’ve got several folks already asking to ask questions. I thin it’s appropriate to end your conversation with two positive challenges to the French, perhaps, on a single system of defense planning between NATO and the EU. And a greater role in NATO nuclear policy over time.
It’s interesting listening to all of you up here. This is a pretty favorably, positively disposed account of what’s happening: Enthusiasm and support, but clearly still many questions to be addressed, whether civil military, the conference of approach, ESDP issues, nuclear policy. So to kick off our discussion, let me turn, first, to Ambassador Hunter for any comment or question that you want to put on the table to frame this discussion. And then we’ll come to Harlan Ullan from our strategic advisors group.
MR. HUNTER: I just have three quick points: one, I’m pleased to hear that there is realism both by Damon and the previous administration and Jim in the current administration – that the French reintegration doesn’t mean that France just going to do what America wants. It’s going to still have its own –
MR. TOWNSEND: We’re going to try.
MR. HUNTER: We’re going to try, of course. (Laughter.) But it adds a richness to the capacity and on agreements. One thing about the French I’ve noticed at NATO, they may have been, traditionally, a very tough ally. But once they reach an agreement at the NAC, they always follow through. It’s not true to some other allies and I won’t mention them – Britain.
Secondly, I think its role could help pump up capabilities on the part of other allies – including through ESDP. It doesn’t matter why it’s done, it’s the fact that it is done. But one of the biggest things I think where France can come play a key role, there is an increasing strategic divide within the alliance as to whether it’s going to focus on Southwest Asia, Middle East, or whether it’s going to focus on Europe. And unless we can bridge that divide, having a NATO isn’t going to matter very much. So having France’s hand in working on that is going to be extraordinarily important.
MR. WILSON: Thanks, Ambassador Hunter. Harlan, folks will bring around a microphone. Please introduce yourself and please get going.
Q: I’m Harlan Ullman. Thanks to the panel, and I enjoy your enthusiasm and positive reaction to France’s re-entry. I have a question and an assertion posing as a question. The question pertains to Afghanistan. NATO has obviously bet its future on Afghanistan. And a number of us do not see this necessarily ending happily. If that’s the case what do you suggest that NATO ought to be thinking about now to deal with that, so that the alliance ends that situation with minimum scars?
And second, I would argue that the NRF – the NATO Response Force – is on life support. And the obvious thing to do is to put it under ACT and make it the mechanism for transformation experimentation. I’d like your reactions for that recommendation.
MR. GRAND: On Afghanistan, I agree with the fact that what’s going on there is not only critical for Afghanistan the region, but it’s also critical for the alliance. My argument’s always been that many Europeans, and at times, including some French decisions until today, have been about, will that please the Americans? Not to foreign security – which is a bad reason to be there, honestly.
Basically, at the beginning, you know, the French and the Germans will make an effort on Afghanistan because they were not in Iraq and that was a point, or way, to tell the Bush administration we’re good allies when we agree.
And now, you know, some made an effort to be the good classmate with the new administration. And I really think it’s bad reasons. And I think that the European political leaders really ought to be held accountable for that because they, somehow, have not told the truth about what is going on in Afghanistan to their own people.
And a particular example of that is Germany, where, I think, because of internal political turmoil, basically they keep pretending this is a peacekeeping operation, which, it’s not. It’s just not true. And the French have a little better record on that, but not that much.
So in a way, I think what is really critical there is to focus our efforts. Obviously we’re not going to turn Afghanistan into Denmark and into a very stable democracy with equal opportunity employment for women and things like that. That’s not going to happen. What we want to do is to make sure that this country’s not a haven for terrorist groups and it’s not a black hole of the world.
So for that, we need to focus. And personally, I really think that we ought to be more serious about that on the part of the Europeans, which is not only about sending more troops, it’s also about being more efficient into this comprehensive approach and to the money we’re putting into this.
And I think it’s through that that the Europeans will be in a position to say what some of them have been saying, which is, you should change the strategy but you have basically no say in the strategy because they don’t put enough effort into the things.
On NRF, I take your point, but on the other hand, I’m set with it because I’ve been in government when we organized NRF and we felt this force was very important; that today – especially in a world in which we don’t do territorial defense planning and things like that – I think this force, keeping to a fairly reasonable level of readiness – was something very important.
So what you say might be the sort of reasonable outcome but on the other hand, I think it would be quite a failure for the alliance to just turn the NRF into something that is aimed at doing that.
And I was very upset at the fact that the NRF finally got engaged in humanitarian operations because the two engagements that I remember are Katrina and the Olympics and then Pakistan. But not Pakistan as Af-Pak – (chuckles) – but Pakistan in a humanitarian thing. And in a way, we really have to think seriously about that. And to be honest, we face the exact same problem on a smaller scale with some of the rapid reaction forces set up in Europe, like the battle groups and things like that, which have not been up to what we expected.
MR. TOWNSEND: Yeah, just real quick. Just on NRF, I was also concerned by the very same point, Harlan, when I got back into government because I was part of the group before I went back in that developed the NRF and understood the importance of it in terms of giving SACEUR a rapid reaction capability tailored to whatever the threat might be. And secondly, to be a force for transformation and off we go.
I think we set the bar too high in some ways. But that aside, what’s happened over the last couple weeks is at NATO, they’ve agreed to a new option for the NRF in terms of sourcing. The problem with the NRF has been sourcing and I won’t get into all the crazy details, but I’d be happy to talk about it afterwards. They’ve come up with a new approach in terms of sourcing the forces that go into the NRF in terms of the rapid reaction capability that we all think is going to work. And the U.S. has pledged to fill 20 percent of that on a consistent basis. And other allies are now falling in.
So we don’t have this tin cup thing every rotation. We’ve got actual nations that have pledged to support the NRF consistently. But an interesting point here, though, is something that Damon raised, or someone raised, about the splits within the alliance – Ambassador Hunter did.
One of the ways in which we’ve been trying to take care of the concerns of the newer allies about the alliance having a rapid reaction capability. The Brits had suggested something called the Alliance Solidarity Force. I don’t know if you guys have heard of this, but the intent behind it was important. The impulse which led them to come up with the idea was important, yet the idea itself had some flaws to it, which I won’t get into.
But what we were about to do is wrap up into the NRF that impulse – that the alliance needed to be able to show allies very quickly under an Article IV type of situation where they felt under threat – that the alliance was serious. And it wasn’t just going to deploy an alliance solidarity force to be a road bump, but it had to be serious and it had to be the NRF.
So what we were able to do is take that impulse that the Brits had and others too about the ASF, as it was called, and put that into the NRF together with this new approach to sourcing the resources and what’s happened now over the past couple weeks is we’ve seen a pendulum swing a bit from what the NRF was a year ago when we went out to Brussels and got our briefing at shape as it was this little humanitarian oriented shadow of it’s former self, it’s beginning to swing back.
So like an ember you’re breathing on to make it burst into flame, we’ve got a lot of work to make sure this goes. But what’s important is I think we’ve shifted from just allowing the NRF to atrophy into actually taking it back to its former self. I’m not sure if we will ever get to that goal that we’d set out at Prague – this 25,000, you know – but I think we’re going to get back to being a capable rapid-reaction force that also will be key for transformation as well.
And I think a role for ACT in this is important, I think that’s a very good point.
MR. WILSON: Thank you, Jim. Leo, a quick word on NRF and Bob on Afghanistan and we’ll go on to the next question.
MR. MICHEL: Well, on Afghanistan, just to point out a couple things that the French are doing, and that is while they’ve said that they don’t – at least in the near term – expect to increase the numbers of boots on the ground, they are taking practical steps to increase their combat relevant capabilities there: the deployment of additional helicopters, additional artillery, and I believe some other measures.
With regard to Pakistan, I think they understand better or as well as some of the other Europeans like the U.K. but better than most the strategic stakes in Pakistan, and in fact their special envoy – they probably will have to appoint another one because he’s moving on to another post – but Pierre Lellouche has been active in Pakistan as well and I think helpful in trying to build up contacts and the European and the French appreciation for what’s going on there.
I really don’t have much to add about NRF except I would point out that General Abrial who will be the new commander at ACT was in fact the French commander of the NRF air component during the earthquake relief operation in Pakistan. He was very proud of that, for all I’ve heard him say so.
I would dismiss the importance of humanitarian assistance whether you would use the NRF or not. But what’s going on in Pakistan is very grave and they may need additional capabilities to get the aid around.
MR. HUNTER: Well, Harlan put his finger on what concretized what I was trying to say in my last comment, which is why NATO is potentially in great trouble. It’s not – I don’t even think it’s a question of whether the allies should have gone with the ISAP beginning in 2003. In terms of the expectations in this country I think it would have been hard to avoid. Go back to kind of a basic principle you’ve had earlier, like in Bosnia. We came in together, we have to go out together.
In terms of NATO, I don’t think there’s any easy answer. Whatever we do, we have to do it together. And I think we broaden it so it’s not just NATO it’s also what the EU does and what we do trans-Atlanticly. I don’t see any choice right now unless we come up with something in which we abandon Afghanistan maybe to the Taliban of moving forward.
And that means among other things greater resources on the non-military side, and I think it’s time for the European Union to pony up with not only more money but a genuine serious, senior, person to be the coordinator who will kick people hard within Europe. You can’t leave it to a very nice man who was a Norwegian ambassador, it can’t be done.
MR. WILSON: Thanks, Bob. Let’s go to you for the next question.
Q: Yeah, thanks. Stu Johnson from Rand. Camille, thank you very much for a very interesting presentation and our colleague Jim Townsend gave you quite a compliment in being able to reach into this reservoir of French military strategy and thinking. And there is some very good strategic thinking in the Livre Blanc, which is a bit surprising for a commission that was as diverse as that.
Now, that said, next time you deliver us a dose of strategic thinking I wonder if you could do it in 50 pages instead of 220. (Laughter.) But, setting that aside, one of the key points there is that the Livre Blanc talks about amplifying the French military’s focus on expeditionary operations.
As I dug into it, it was pretty clear that this was going to require some serious investments on the part of the ministry of defense. Are those resources following the declaratory strategy?
MR. GRAND: I mean, on French strategic thinking, I just – a footnote to the kind words of Jim, yes, we did have some interesting input in today’s counterinsurrection debate. Galula was a good example of that, of a French colonel, but most of his writing he did at RAND and not in France – (laughter) – because he didn’t have a job in France after the Algerian War. So and he’s been retranslated into French from English so he’s only becoming this interesting figure in the debate now.
On the resources debate – I mean, there is tremendous stress. It is naïve to consider that France is in a position to do only what it wants in the coming – what he called procurement rule of the next five years. There are very heavy issues there.
Interesting things that the procurement system has been more operation driven and we’ve introduced assistance for contingency and emergency positions, those sorts of things that for instance, you need to increase the capabilities of forces in Afghanistan today, not in 15 years from now, you know, that has been applied to UAVs and things like that – so that’s one partial answer.
I suppose the Livre Blanc and the resources to date concerned interesting things that the Livre Blanc is in the 15-year timeframe. So its implementation, if one puts it this way, should be judged over a period of 15 years. And it’s quite clear that some of the assets that have been identified as critical to enhance our expeditionary capabilities will be there more in the next 10 years than in the next three years.
But I do not see the French defense budget diving significantly in the coming years. Interestingly from the beginning in our own facing the economic crisis plans, defense spending has been half of that. You know, there’s been – some of the defense spending has been earmarked as fighting the recession, which is unusual in Europe. But most of it depends on how lasting is the crisis and things like that.
So, yes, there will be stress. I think that the will to continue more or less on that trend is there, which will not meet all of the criterion of the Livre Blanc in the next five years but hopefully in the next 10, 12 years and achieves some significant results in terms of adding teeth to French military.
MR. WILSON: Thanks, Camille. That was a good question, Stu. I think even under the parochial question of financing for NATO, because even before the debate was joined in a public way in France, the French government was making the effort to demonstrate to us that they had done some savvy planning in the budget to be able to lay the groundwork for a serious French approach to the alliance, doing it in a politically sensitive way since they hadn’t even had the public debate there yet.
But it was part of demonstrating that they understood and appreciated it up front the resources commitment to this whether it was beginning to ramp up English-language training before they even announced this or beginning to pocket away some of the resources in the budget as a testament to the seriousness and resolve of moving this forward.Ambassador Beecroft, please.
Mr. HUNTER: While he’s coming there let’s say – (in French.) Dans l’alliance, nous avons deux langue officielles: le francais et l’autre langue.
MR. GRAND: Oui. C’est ca. That’s it.
Q: I’m reminded of a comment Colin Powell made several years ago that France and the United States have been in marriage counseling since 1780 and that this will not change. But it sounds right now as if the counselors have done a good job.
I had the honor of working for Ambassador Hunter at NATO in the 1990s –
MR. HUNTER: I had the honor of your being a leader on the team.
Q: Thank you, sir. But I go back 20 years earlier and this sort of substantiates what we were talking about. My first job in the foreign service was deputy political advisor to SACEUR who at the time was General Goodpaster,1971. And even then, General Goodpaster had the entire French account under his hat at SHAPE and he was in Paris all the time, never announced but even then the coordination was active and there was also of course a French general at SHAPE during that whole period.
So what is now – we have an acquis now which was at that point purely notional but I think it’s a very good thing. My question has to do – actually I have two very broad questions. We’ve been talking about resources and the future of defense budgets. Is France in a position or is France even interested in influencing other EU members who are NATO members to stop the attrition of military budgets and forces? Something the United States has tried to do for a long time but burden-sharing when the United States talks about it usually meets with glazed eyes in response. Can France help in that regard?
And this is related to it and also to the Livre Blanc but it goes a little bit beyond that. What is France’s vision of the alliance and the roles and missions of the alliance 10 or even 20 years out? And how can we reconcile those with our own vision assuming we have one? Thank you.
MR. GRAND: Let me try to give it a shot on these two. I mean, stopping attrition of European defense budget is – I hope it’s not a lost cause. I think the key there is a bit twofold: A, there is a need to create a sort of minimum benchmarks. When I was in the defense ministry, we used to talk about, you know, as we have the mastery criteria for deficits we should have some criterias for defense spending, you know, this sort of 2-percent benchmark whatever to –
MR. HUNTER: We’ve tried that at NATO, too.
MR. GRAND: It’s very difficult to have it work. But, I think, in a way, what’s interesting is you do see very different positions. A country like Poland for instance – as a new member of both U.N. and NATO, I think it’s taking defense seriously because basically our Polish friends, which have very direct concerns about their own threats, want to be seen as serious so they could expect the rest of the alliance or the rest of the EU to be serious about helping them if and when necessary. So you do see those interesting things.
We see countries that have, you know, not necessarily been at the forefront of military issues for centuries being extremely serious on defense. I recently met the team that is working on the Dutch white paper. The Dutch put a lot of energy, thinking into developing armed forces for the 21st century and meeting that challenge including by putting money.
I think basically what the Europeans have to learn, which is something that is very counterintuitive to most of the citizens of Europe, is that what we’re doing now is sometimes going at war, which is something that they are –you know- basically when it was about the Third World War in Europe, the importance of your military might was relative, you know. The prospect of nuclear war didn’t mean that you had to be very serious about how your conscript force would be able to fight for years.
This has changed. And my second point would be to say that we have to stop making comparison with the U.S. I think this is killing the debate in Europe because basically people tend to say, come on, we spent one-third, all of us together so there’s no way whatsoever we can reach that. And I think we need to argue that we can be serious about some missions, including either a high-technology or high-spectrum military missions without spending even half what the U.S. is spending.
So I think the issue is really to try to change the curve, the trend not towards – if you go to any of these countries and you say double your defense expenditures, none of them will. If you say, if you can make a specific effort on air transport, helicopters, heavy helicopters, whatever, you can achieve something and be a serious partner through one significant effort. And there are countries that are not large, that don’t have large forces that are making that sort of effort. Think of Bulgaria at the moment for instance. There’s an interesting case.
MR. Townsend: Or the Danes.
MR. GRAND: Or the Danes and others. So it’s not – I think it’s important to make that clear that the point is not in spending in relative terms or obviously in global terms what the U.S. is spending at the European scale. But it’s about spend better – you know, to make it short, it is not acceptable that at the moment, only about 3 percent of the 2 million armed forces are deployed and probably if you look at it seriously, no more than 5 percent is deployable or 10 percent if you’re very, very serious about it. So that means that we have a problem.
MR. TOWNSEND: If I could just jump in. It goes back to what Leo was saying in terms of what was actually my idea about EU-NATO defense planning. It’s how the money is spent. In other words, it’s not going in and saying double your defense budget. It’s spend more efficiently what we have and if we’re going to spend it more efficiently, we’ve got to do it in some sort of joint way because we’ll still be inefficient if we duplicate or we do things with a sloppy approach.
So eventually I hope, we’ll be able to reach something to what Leo was talking about in terms of a defense planning process where we can at least have as far as we can go a common approach and a common understanding of common shortfalls and how we might be able to do something about those.
MR. WILSON: Thanks, Jim. We have basically run the clock with your indulgence. Let me try to take one last question here and then I would turn to –
Q: Thank you. I am Manuel Lafont Rapnouil with the Europe Program at CSIS. Basically, I am going to press you further on the same topic that Ambassador Beecroft addressed in his last question. You mentioned a lot about how this French move is going to change the institutions, the processes, the ambiance, the tone, the climate. I’d like to press you further on how it’s going to change substance, how it’s going to impact NATO.
Camille, basically you said, one of the benchmark was European influence within NATO. How would NATO and some European influence be different from NATO without that European influence? What concretely do you expect? Jim, you said that there was a change – as psychological change. Is this change only going to make things – well, not easier because everyone said France is not easy –
MR. TOWNSEND: And neither is the U.S. It’s not just France.
Q: – but at least less – more appeased and more constructive? Or is it going to impact also on substance on the way we address the challenges that you’ve all mentioned in the strategy concept overall more broadly?
And Leo, basically from what you said, I take that this move is mostly impacting the bilateral relation between France and the U.S. but is not impacting the other European allies and that this is limiting the impact that these – what you’ve called normalization – how it’s going to actually change more than just the setting or the climate or the institutions but really the policy. Thank you.
MR. WILSON: Thank you. You put some broad, strategic questions on the table and we’re not going to do justice to them because I’m going to ask our panelists for the recognition of the clock to give quick responses to that as a part of answering your questions and their closing comments so Camille, Jim. Very quickly.
MR. GRAND: I think when thinking of NATO in 10 years and where we can take it together, what I see more in European eyes I say that the Europeans ought to bring into NATO some of their strategic culture and some of their approach to both international issues and war-fighting. And I think there we can do better honestly. And this is where ICT’s going to be hopefully playing an important role.
I also hope NATO is going to be more focused. I hate to be dismissive with the former sec-gen but I think in a way, de Hoop Scheffer was too obsessed with NATO’s legitimacy. So he was very into, you know, what can we do about Darfur, what can we do about earthquakes and things like that. I don’t want to dismiss humanitarian operations but I think NATO is about defense and conducting operations. And NATO shouldn’t be spending money, energy and – you know, basically it’s a military alliance and it should work better with the EU as well and that’s going to be part of the – very interesting debate in the strategic concept formula.
MR. TOWNSEND: Yeah, briefly on the psychological side. I think there’s a couple things. One is, you know, obviously with something that’s psychological and political, it’s something you have a hard time feeling it, touching it. But I think this psychological aspect brings a sense of confidence among the allies that when we gather together, there’s this unity that’s the symbol – the symbol of French reunification as a symbol brings about a feeling of confidence and unity of approach and community that we don’t have an outlier there that symbolizes a problem with it.
The second thing it does bring is: When you have this sense of unity, when you have this feeling that we’re kind of in this together, tangible things can result from that whether it’s a strategic concept, whether it is perhaps a common approach on like the C-17 Consortium in a sense to get real technical and hands on – that there’s a common approach that we can take to fulfilling a common shortfall like strategic lift, that we can come up with a creative approach because the atmosphere is such that we can focus on the practical and we’re not all screwed up on the rhetoric and the symbols and will this undercut the EU ESDP and all the things that bound us over the past 10 years as we got rid of our ghosts that were running around that were political and rhetorical. If we can now burn through that, this psychological aspect can be the mood music that can allow tangible things to result.
MR. MICHEL: I agree with what Jim says. I think it’s a very subtle problem. But you do still have different strategic cultures within Europe itself. And it will take a long way to play out. You have also specific national issues, for example Turkey where on the one hand French and Turkish troops have been cooperating closely – they’ve had to in the Kabul region in Afghanistan. And at other times it’s not been easy for the French to have overflight rights for their military aircraft to Afghanistan because of Turkish political concerns about what the French national assembly has said.
I mentioned some of the concerns on nuclear issues and the French CHOD has been very outspoken – he is called the poison of caveats in alliance operations. But I think having France, as I said to use the American expression having skin in the game at every level where you have in the multilateral, multinational military structures, also in one perhaps eventually two more committees. I think it does have an influence and real French interest in developing pragmatic solutions to the NATO-EU relationship. So I think it will be helpful but as you said before, it’s not that the skies open up, we see a new sun and all is sweetness and light for the future.
MR. TOWNSEND: It sets an example for others. The point about caveats is important, that it’s not just the U.S. banging on about caveats but in fact, it’s the French also – the French voice, which carries weight in Europe. It’s important for that French voice to be heard and this will give it an added reach I think.
MR. WILSON: A final word from Ambassador Hunter.
MR. HUNTER: Yeah, I think that’s key. If you look at what the president and the chancellor said the other day in their press conference, the president used the word Afghanistan twice. Merkel didn’t even mention it. France can help on that. Shared responsibility, shared decision-making and a compatible, strategic perspective is what we have to get to. And having France where it is now helps with that.
Now, I joked at the beginning about having Alliot-Marie as secretary general in part for all those three reasons – didn’t happen. Next time or the time after that, I think we can tell listening to the three of them – great team. We’re going to have Camille Grand as NATO secretary-general and we’ll be in great shape.
MR. MICHEL: He’s got my vote already.
MR. HUNTER: Thank you very much.
Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.