Central Europe Activ

The Atlantic Review has a useful mesh-up on France’s defence policy. France has signaled over the past few months that it may pursue reintegration into the NATO command structure, which President Charles de Gaulle left in 1966. The more positive reading of this policy shift is that after re-integration Europe will be stronger within NATO to influence American policy. The more negative reading is that France may be a Trojan horse and eventually would like to break out with the desired European defence alliance with the rest of Europe from NATO.

French troops in high readiness with NATO.Last Saturday Hungary’s premier daily newspaper, N?pszabads?g ran a long interview with Mr. B?rdos-F?ltoronyi, a retired professor of the Catholic University of Leuven and expert on this field. (Probably this interview is not as important as the collection in the Atlantic Review but it is not available in English). Mr. B?rdos-F?ltoronyi claims that the Commission has made huge undercover steps under the command of Javier Solana, a former NATO secretary-general, especially in coordinated planning that showed its limited results in Kosovo, Chad and Lebanon. He believes that once Airbus will be able to produce independent air transport capacities for Europe the strength of this cooperation will be even more visible. However, in his view will never lead to an independent European defence system. In his view this would mean that it can resist claims and threats from the US or Russia which would require infinite resources and would bear little fruit.

I think the international debate on France’s future role in NATO and in the EU defence structure is a bit balanced. While the Western commenter puts more emphasis on getting some leverage over American policy-making or building up a credible exit threat, for Central European EU members their NATO membership is not only a political tool, but a real military alliance that should prevent regional insecurity, wars, civil wars, and excessive Russian influence on their sovereign states. Should the issue of France’s return to NATO become over-politicized, you can expect a similar reaction to the European-American visa talks: Central Europeans will feel that the fight for global political influence leaves them hostage between America and Russia with an indifferent EU, and they will walk out and make deals en bloc with the United States.? Or with Russia, as it happened with the gas pipelines.

Photo: Ministry of Defence of France via NATO multimedia library.

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  1. Antal,

    In noting France’s offer to reintegrate into the NATO command structure may be a Trojan horse you’re being charitable.

    Taken at face value Sarkozy’s suggestion does seem a change for the better. However, the quid pro quo is American support of and acquiescence to Franco-German project of building an EU military arm, ,which is designed to and would inevitably weaken NATO.

    NATO’s “fighting allies” – Americans, British, Canadians, Dutch and Poles, carry the burden and the German and the Latins take a free ride. Afghanistan is illustrative. Rules attending the bare handful of French and German troops in Afghanistan for the most part keep them out of harm’s way.

    You raise the issue of Eastern Europe being hostage between America and Russia with an indifferent EU.

    New Europeans do face a stark, but I would think easy choice. Broadly there are three options.

    Make an accommodation with the Russkies. The Russian bear is out of hibernation. Vlad Putin and his fraternity of ex KGB operatives have an old-school world view. Only recently liberated Eastern Europe could accept a framework of Finlandization or worse.

    Alternatively, Eastern Europe could look to Brussels. That may be fine for agricultural subsidies. But, Old Europe’s first instinct is to appease Russia. L’Elysee and the Chancellery blocked bringing the Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. Germany today is belligerently pacifist. While France is still only too happy to employ force for its own purposes in Africa, it will do little to nothing to curb Russia’s throwing its weight around in Eastern Europe.

    Or New Europe can work assiduously to keep NATO and most importantly America engaged.

    The danger with American troops is that they will leave, with Russian troops that they won’t, and with French troops whether they’re notionally committed to Brussels or NATO, that there aren’t very many of them and given their political class, they aren’t likely to be of any use if and when they’re most needed.


  2. Eric, I hope that you are exaggerating, but I can agree with a lot you say. It is true that Europe is divided. I posted the math earlier. Adjusted for their size, it some European NATO allies who sacrifice the most in Afghanistan and not the US. It is also some European NATO allies who contribute the least.

    I do not think that Finlandization is an option for already EU and NATO member countries. Finlandization had a historic fact behind: that half of Finland was swallowed by Russia. Central Europe reintegrated into the European economy with a pace that surprised all Central European analysts.

    I think Central Europeans are close to your third option but they do not get too much attention from the US government at all.

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