My article Setting the Tone: The 2013 French White Paper and the Future of European Defence has just been published in the latest edition of RUSI Journal. This article offers an overview of the recent French White Paper’s analysis of strategic, capability and technological-industrial developments and examines their implications for the forthcoming December 2013 European Council and for the future of European armed forces. I argue that, ultimately, France’s credibility and added value as a leading European power lies on its ability to reconcile two key assumptions. Like Britain, France considers military force and the ability to project military power on a global scale to be a key element of foreign policy. Like Germany, France believes that European political cooperation – including in the realms of foreign, security and military policy – is indispensable for the stability of Europe and that of its broader neighbourhood.
However, neither Germany nor Britain – Europe’s two other main powers – have managed to reconcile those two assumptions in their respective geostrategies. France has. And its efforts to do so permeate into its analysis of strategic, capability and technological-industrial developments. That is what makes the 2013 French White Paper relevant to other European countries and to the future of European military power. At a time when Europe’s security and global influence are threatened by the looming shadow of political disintegration; by instability and volatility in the broader Middle East; and by the prospect of Europeans’ strategic impotence beyond their immediate neighbourhood, France’s attempt to bridge the need for military force (and the ability to project it on a global basis) and the need for European political cooperation becomes particularly pertinent.
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