A stop in Paris for Senior Course 143: discussions on security & defence policy and French nuclear deterrence.
On 7 November 2023, the NDC delegation had a very fruitful day at the CNA (Cercle National des Armées) Saint-Augustin, where Course Members were briefed on France’s foreign and defence policy and its approach to present and future strategic challenges, not only from a French viewpoint but also from a Euro-Atlantic perspective, as well as France’s vision for NATO and its specific position within the Alliance on nuclear deterrence. In the afternoon, the group visited the military museum in the Hôtel des Invalides, a complex of buildings housing museums and monuments relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans – the building's original purpose – and the Tomb of Napoleon. This historical and cultural activity of high interest to the NDC added great value to the day’s programme. A reception at the Ecole Militaire kindly hosted by the French CHOD, General Thierry Burkhard, ended the Field Study trip to France.
Mr Armand Apruzzese, France’s Senior National Representative at the NATO Defense College, moderated the academic day, which started with welcome remarks by Colonel Bruno Cunat, Deputy Head of the Europe, North America and Multilateral Action Department of the Directorate General for International Relations and Strategy (DGRIS). COL Cunat outlined the agenda of the day, introducing the main topics to be discussed in more depth later on and sharing some thoughts about the global challenges threatening security and stability.
Senator Ronan Le Gleut, member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces, briefly introduced the role of the French Parliament in defence policy, focusing on the Committee’s work and describing competencies, tasks, procedures and relations between the Armed Forces and the Parliament.
Subsequently, Mr Alexandre Vulic, Deputy Director for Strategic Affairs, Security and Disarmament at the French Ministry of EU and Foreign Affairs, presented a briefing on French defence and foreign policy, focusing on how Russia’s attack against Ukraine had changed priorities due to the altered strategic balance in the area, which had forced NATO to review its collective defence strategy.
The next presentation, delivered by Captain Thibaut Del Giudice, Deputy Head, NATO & Transatlantic Affairs at the Directorate General for International Relations and Strategy (DGRIS), focused on NATO and the perspective of the French Ministry of Defence. After a rapid historical background on NATO and France, the briefer discussed the strategic tenets of French defence policy and vision, also highlighting the key issues which will be discussed at the next NATO Summit, to be held in Washington, DC next year.
Rear Admiral Luc Raynal, Head of the Euro-Atlantic Division in the French Defence Staff, then gave Course Members an overview of the Defence Staff’s strategic vision and how that strategic vision, in turn, shapes France’s defence policy. As stated by RADM Raynal, the drastically changed strategic environment means that improving equipment, responsiveness, logistical support, technology, military capacity and resilience are considered as priorities with a view to implementing the new force model concept and ensuring our countries are ready to face upcoming challenges. The adoption of new technologies, and in particular artificial intelligence, will change battlefields in the future, and in this context it is paramount to gain a better understanding of competitors and anticipate potential threats, concluded the briefer.
The last presentation of the day, on “French doctrine for nuclear deterrence”, was provided by Lieutenant Colonel Frédéric Parle, from DGRIS, who highlighted that nuclear force can be used “to protect France’s territories in self-defence and against whoever threatens the country’s vital interests”. He also underscored the importance of credibility, which is sustained by three main pillars: political will, technical capability and operational capacity.
Before ending the academic part of the day, Rear Admiral Ludovic Poitou delivered his closing remarks.
After lunch, the visit continued in the military museum housed in the Hôtel des Invalides, an important symbol of French military history.
Finally, a very warm and welcoming reception hosted at the Ecole Militaire by the French Chief of Defence Staff, General Thierry Burkhard, concluded the Field Study trip to France for Senior Course 143. General Burkhard said he was delighted to speak in front of such a distinguished group from NATO’s senior education establishment, which was originally based at the Ecole Militaire, from its creation in 1951 until 1966. Finally, he shared some words of appreciation for the quality of the relationship between the French Armed Forces and the NDC.