Thursday, 12 March 2009

France to rejoin NATO

Interesting move from French President Nicolas Sarkozy in planning to move France back into the NATO command structure, from several points of view.

It says that Sarkozy is looking at the big picture of national security and seeing a role for NATO in the 21st Century - a continuation of the role as a defence organisation that it has been for the past 60 years. It also suggests a world view which sees France as able to contribute to a defence organisation which, being honest, is led by the US. According to Sarkozy, "a solitary nation is a nation that has no influence whatsoever." An interesting concept.

However, it also - according, ironically, to the Socialist opposition in France - sacrifices French "independence, influence and national identity" on a global scale. Some have said the move will "castrate France once and for all."

For me, it is an interesting question. I think that NATO must undergo massive change in both its mission and its structure if it is to continue as a meaningful global institution in the 21st Century. Arguably, in the post-Cold War world, NATO's remit is irrelevant. It has to adapt to the changed global circumstance - and that means a different command structure.

The threat is no longer from Warsaw Pact states and communism. That fight is one. Now global concerns are terrorism, economics and the environment. NATO is probably unable to counter-act the latter two but it is in a primary position to change its role, to provide a global network with an international command structure and free-flow of intelligence on terror suspects to detect and stop threats. At least, that's the theory.

But international agencies don't work like that - which is partly why the French left in the first place. No one likes to share. And no one wants to foot the bill for an expensive overhaul of operations and specialisations. Instead, we'll continue to work with a transatlantic organisation that is as obsolete as the floppy disk.

Maybe the French can do something to change that. But I doubt it.

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