In This Review

The French White Paper on Defence and National Security
The French White Paper on Defence and National Security
By The White Paper Commission
Odile Jacob, 2008, 336 pp

The third official statement of French defense policy since the founding of the Fifth Republic -- and the first in 14 years -- this white paper reflects the priorities of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in office since May 2007. Some themes are familiar. For example, the paper makes a vigorous and controversial defense of traditional French nuclear deterrence policy, which remains the "essential foundation" of French national security strategy. It also underscores France's longstanding European ambitions: "making the European Union a major player in crisis management and international security is one of the central tenets of [French] security policy." But there are important new elements as well. The paper unambiguously asserts that NATO and European defense are complementary and advocates the "full participation of France in the structures of NATO," a goal stated without reference to any sort of quid pro quo. The paper also proposes a new structure for the French armed forces, including the generation of a force-projection capability of 30,000 soldiers to be available at six months' notice. The overall size of the French military will decline, while spending will increase slightly, leading to a better-funded, if smaller, overall force. Another innovation is the new priority placed on intelligence gathering, defended as more essential than ever in such an uncertain strategic environment. This serious work should be welcomed by those who want to see more Europeans take national security issues seriously.