France and NATO

France within NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty, signed in Washington on 4 April 1949, instituted the Atlantic Alliance, initially composed of 10 European countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom), the United States and Canada. Other European countries joined the Alliance in 1952 (Greece and Turkey), 1955 (the Federal Republic of Germany), 1982 (Spain) and 1999 (Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic). In March 2004, seven new countries became members (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia). Albania and Croatia were invited to join the Alliance on April 2008, and will effectively do so soon.

The Treaty institutes an alliance for collective self-defence and a forum for consultation among members whenever one of them considers its security to be threatened.

The supreme political authority of the Alliance is the North Atlantic Council (NAC), which works through consensus. Committees exist for the purposes of political consultation, defence planning and operations. The integrated military structure is headed by an operational command commanded by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

Initially created during the Cold War, the Alliance has changed : alongside its traditional defence planning functions for collective defence (an armed attack on one or more NATO members is considered an attack against all of them), the Alliance also developed its missions in the military management of crises in April 1999. To strengthen security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region, the Alliance stands ready to contribute, on a case-by-case basis and by consensus, to the effective prevention of conflicts and to play an active role in crisis management, including in crisis response operations. In November 2002, a NATO Response Force (NRF) was created and the NATO command structure was reformed.

Today, NATO is involved in three operations : Afghanistan, Kosovo and Irak (training only).

In 1966, France decided to quit the Supreme Allied Command Europe of NATO while staying within the Alliance because of concerns regarding its’ sovereignty over French nuclear weapons. Some 43 years latter, the world has changed and HE Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, recently confirmed his will that France retakes its full place within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In the strategic environment of relative powers and new challenges, France, that stands firmly within the western family, needs a strong Europe and sure allies. The European Union and NATO are two pillars of French policy of security and defence. As such, they are an absolute priority for France : thus, during the French Presidency of the EU, concrete initiatives aiming at bettering the military capacities of the Europeans were made which allowed the successes of the European engagement in the Georgian crisis and in the fight against piracy. President Sarkozy underlined that these progresses would not have been possible without the evolution of the French position towards NATO since the 80’s, which permitted to obtain the support of all our European partners and of the United States. It is now time for France, a major contributor in a number of NATO’s operations, of co-conduct rather than to follow.

Reaffirming French national independence, the President of the Republic clarified that the three principles would be respected: France alone will decide about sending its troops in operation ; in peacetime, France will not place French troops permanently under NATO command and, lastly, the nuclear deterrence of France will remain strictly national.

Recalling the rule of consensus within the Atlantic Alliance, the President of the Republic has underlined that the rapprochement with the NATO would allow France to have its’ voice heard in all the debates of the Alliance and to participate fully in its’ definition of objectives and strategy. France is "a friend standing on his own feet, an independent ally, a free partner".

Gilles-Henry GARAULT
Ambassador of France in Nepal


- More information on NATO, clic HERE

- More information about the Defense policy and security of France, clic HERE

Dernière modification : 27/03/2009

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