Events

French Security and Defense Policy Under Nicolas Sarkozy

May 25, 2007 // 11:00am12:30pm

Yves Boyer, the Deputy Director of the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique in Paris, offered insight into French security and defense policy under President Nicolas Sarkozy at a presentation on May 25, 2007. Sarkozy's election, he said, stems from France's "nervous breakdown" of the late 1980s and early 1990s, which centered on France's identity and its role in Europe and the wider world. Although the far right provided the intellectual basis to address this crisis, Boyer said, the left did not recognize the nature of the situation and consequently failed to adjust their policies. As a result, the green and communist parties were weakened and could only offer Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate for the French presidency, modest support in the last election. Boyer asserted that Sarkozy's election with a strong majority, the likelihood that he will win the upcoming legislative elections, and the broad presidential powers embodied in the Fifth Republic will reinforce the centrality of the French presidency.

During his presidential campaign, Sarkozy offered a glimpse into his foreign policy. This includes maintaining the centrality of the Franco-German relationship, improving relations and fostering an equal partnership with the U.S., protecting France from the negative effects of globalization, moving European integration forward, limiting EU enlargement, taxing goods from countries that do not abide by the Kyoto Protocol, and bringing more democracy into the EU. This last objective, Boyer said, could signal a more intergovernmental, rather than federalist, approach to European integration. Sarkozy has also criticized the state of human rights in Russia, China, and Darfur. By designating Bernard Kouchner, the co-founder of Médecins sans Frontièrs, the Minister of Foreign and European affairs, Boyer said, Sarkozy is indicating that this will be taken seriously.

In the area of security and defense policy, Boyer highlighted several positions that are likely to be taken by Sarkozy. With respect to NATO, he said, Sarkozy does not want to see it transformed into a global organization. In his view, NATO should remain a strictly military organization and should not attempt to substitute for the UN. Secondly, Boyer asserted that Sarkozy wants to move European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) forward, but cautioned that this should be accompanied by realistic expectations of what will be achieved. In addition, he said, Sarkozy will likely attempt to maintain or increase the defense budget. Fourthly, Boyer said that Sarkozy may not keep French forces in Afghanistan if there is no improvement in the situation. Lastly, he argued that Sarkozy possesses a greater degree of control over the military establishment than his predecessor did. This increased influence, he said, owes to the relative inexperience of Hervé Morin, the French Defense Minister, and the fact that the military apparatus has in recent years gained control of finances and internal affairs.

In concluding, Boyer made a broader point on the West's approach to warfare. This approach, he said, overemphasizes technology to the point where it may not be financially sustainable. He cited the $10 million Israel spent to eliminate one Hezbollah fighter and the extraordinary amount it costs the U.S. to stay engaged in Iraq. An inability to take causalities has prompted this approach, which contrasts with the West's enemies who have adopted a strategy of "total war" and are more willing to endure combat losses. Boyer argued that this is a crisis which will have to be addressed in the near future.

Drafted by Mitch Yoshida

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