SC 142 Field Study 1: Paris
The NDC delegation travelled to France and was hosted by the Ministry of Defence in Paris
Senior Course 142 arrived in Paris on Monday 20 March 2023, where the French Chief of Defence Staff, General Thierry Burkhard, received the delegation during a most warm and welcoming reception.
Upon arrival at the Cercle national des Armées the following day, the NDC delegation was met by VADM Christophe Lucas, Deputy Director General for International Relations. He thanked the Senior Course for coming to Paris and the NDC especially for providing high-level courses for over 70 years. Many topics were discussed during his welcome address: EU-NATO cooperation, expenditures in defence, NATO’s Strategic Concept, the Madrid Summit and the upcoming Vilnius Summit. At that summit, VADM Lucas expects an expression of ongoing support to Ukraine; a discussion on the implementation of commitments made during the Madrid Summit; discussions to improve troop mobility; and updates on the formalisation of Finland’s and Sweden’s membership to the Alliance. He warmly thanked NDC Commandant Lieutenant General Olivier Rittimann for representing France in the Alliance.
Mr Christian Cambon, Chair of the Senate Commission of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces and Head of the French Delegation to NATO Parliamentary Assembly, then spoke on the “Role of the Parliament in France’s Defence Policy”, beginning with an analysis of the current political framework, constitutional aspects, and how decisions on defence spending are taken in Parliament. He also spoke of the commitment to deploy to Romania following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Mr Cambon underscored strong national backing is in support of Ukraine, but that public opinion must always be properly informed and updated. Questions from Course Members focussed on French military priorities and relations between the armed forces and parliament.
Mr Alexandre Vulic, Deputy Director for Strategic Affairs, Security and Disarmament of the French Ministry of EU and Foreign Affairs presented a briefing on Defence and Foreign Policy – Euro-Atlantic. Russia’s attack against Ukraine has completely changed priorities in the Euro-Atlantic area, altering the strategic balance in the area, and casting an impact that will be felt for many years to come. Mr Vulic spoke of nuclear and non-proliferation, Russian influence around the world, and in particular, in the cyber and space domains.
Briefings continued with a presentation on “NATO: The French Perspective”, led by CAPT Philippe Schegg, Head of Department, NATO and Transatlantic Affairs, Relations and Strategy of the Directorate General for International Relations and Strategy. He gave a historical background on NATO and France, highlighting how France has always played an active role by participating in all NATO operations and missions. CAPT Schegg Then outlined the strategic tenets of France’s defence policy, explaining that as European power, France carries out global responsibilities, especially in the area of nuclear deterrence. He also described the country’s centralised decision-making system, and how the armed forces are capable of responding in all types of threats and conflicts, on very short notice. With regard to NATO, France fully endorses the 360 degrees approach that encompasses the south, east, space and cyper, areas of high priority for the country.
The following presentation was on “NATO’s Military Vision” by Commodore Luc Raynal, Head of the Euro-Atlantic Division of the French Defence Staff. He gave an overview of the strategic context and how this shapes France’s policy. Improving equipment, responsiveness, logistical support, technology, military capacity and resilience are priorities outlined in the Strategy Review of the French armed forces. He also gave an overview of the current military operations missions led by France, and how they are strongly contributing to worldwide security. Commodore Raynal concluded his presentation by underscoring France’s contribution to the NATO Response Force, its engagement in the Eastern Flank, and Russia’s and China’s influence in those countries.
The final presentation of the day was given by Colonel Geoffroy Didion, Deterrence Advisor of the Department of Military Competition and Disruptive Technologies of the Directorate General for the International Relations and Strategy. His talk was entitled “The French Nuclear Deterrence Doctrine. He described nuclear force as necessary only for self-defence. He also provided insights about credibility, which is sustained by three main pillars: political will, technical capacity and operational capacity. He concluded his talk by affirming the importance of complementarity between nuclear and conventional means.
At the conclusion of this highly interesting day, the Vice Chief of Defence Staff, General Eric Autellet, addressed Course Members with closing remarks on how relations among the great powers has changed, and how this marks the start of a new era. He shared his thoughts on the war in Ukraine, hybrid conflicts in many domains, enlargement of the Alliance as a consequence of the Russian invasion, partnerships, and France’s role and position in NATO.
The NDC delegation then visited the military museum housed in the Hôtel des Invalides, a special highlight from the trip that shall be fondly remembered, along with the renowned hospitality shown by the French Ministry of Defence, by Course Members of SC 142.