SC 132 European Security Perspectives Field Study, Paris, March 26, 2018
For the second week of its European Field Study, SC132 stopped in Paris. On Monday, Course Members received a series of briefings on the French Armed Forces and their relations with NATO. The session was moderated by Navy Captain Paul Gelly, Faculty Adviser and French representative at the NATO Defense College.
BGen D. Pincet, Director of Academic Operations at the NDC, introduced the first speaker: Vice-Admiral Hervé de Bonaventure, Deputy Head of the International Relations and Strategy Directorate (DGRIS). He underlined the role of the NDC in training for strategic thinking at the beginning of his address, and spoke about the different threats and challenges for Europe and, in particular, terrorism and failed states. He mentioned different cases, such as Syria and some states in Central and Eastern Africa. He underlined the role of international institutions, especially NATO, and the essential role of the Armed Forces in this context.
Colonel Marc Dubois, Deputy Branch Head of the NATO Affairs Office in DGRIS, then took the floor and spoke about relations between France and NATO. He started with historical perspectives, moving on to the current status of relations between France and NATO, especially within the military structure. He then examined some of the important topical issues at NATO, focusing on NATO-EU relations, and illustrated the French initiative in this regard, as mentioned in the National Defence and Security review dated October 2017. He underlined France’s commitment to the Alliance and finished his presentation by referring to the efforts France is ready to make in the future, before answering questions. He was followed by Col Nicolas Chambaz, Head of the NATO Office in the Armed Forces Staff who explained, from a Joint Forces point of view, the different operations France is leading or participating in nationally and internationally. He described, for example, how France is present in Africa and in the Middle East and at sea, in coalitions or within the EU or UN frameworks. He also referred to France’s involvement in the West Indies following Hurricane Irma, and explained the reasons for the historical links with these regions which play an important role for the involvement of the French Armed Forces, and how these support European interests. He also showed France’s direct involvement in NATO operations, for example in Enhanced Forward Presence.
Participants were then provided with a briefing by Mr Alexandre Escorcia, Deputy Head of the Centre for Analysis, Forecasts and Strategy at the Ministry for European and Foreign Affairs, presented France’s foreign policy and the role of international organizations from a political point of view. He analysed current political challenges and explained the resulting political priorities (Africa, but also multilateralism regarding international organizations). He underlined that France’s commitment to NATO is fully compatible with the preservation of the country's decision-making autonomy and freedom of action, and repeated that France’s defence and national security strategy cannot be considered outside the NATO framework and its engagement in a stronger European Union. France is a responsible ally, he said
After lunch, and for the first time in France, the Senior Course had the opportunity to hold discussions with a Member of Parliament. Senator Gilbert Roger, Vice-President of the Foreign, Defence and Armed Forces Committee of the Senate and Member of the French Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, gave a presentation on the importance of NATO and international organizations in general for France. Taking a political perspective, he explained how important it is for the European continent to have international organizations like NATO and the EU. He stressed that maintaining a high level of security with different cultures is a challenge, and that effective cooperation should be a central concern for politicians in Europe.
The briefings were very useful to understand not only France’s strategic priorities, but also the rationale behind them. The discussions that followed also provided some understanding (including political) of why France is so involved in Africa and elsewhere in the world, and how, in parallel, it can remain committed to NATO and the EU.