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A New Professional Army for France

A New Professional Army for France

The new-style Armed Forces (Part 5)

A New Defence

The Defence policy defined by the Government takes into account the threats we must face and the support that the Armed Forces are to contribute to our general policy.

In so far as threats are concerned, our concept is affected by the disappearance of hostile forces permanently installed close to our frontiers and likely to menace the very survival of the Nation.

As far as our policy is concerned, priority has been given to the role played by France in the upkeep of international peace and security, this policy being enforced in a resolutely European perspective. This choice will also be essential for defining our means.

Three hypotheses are particularly good illustrations of the future conditions of action for our forces:

- Action within the framework of NATO or the WEU, through our alliances, engendered for example by the potential instability in Southern Europe or in the Mediterranean.

- Contribution towards international security operations, in handling crises or maintaining peace, mandated by the United Nations or a European body, where our interests are at stake and within a multinational framework.

- Enforcement of our Defence agreements, in particular for the benefit of our African partners, mainly within a national framework, which may be extended to Europe in the future.

The type of threats and the hypothetical use of our forces determine both the mainspring and the respective significance of our four major strategic functions: deterrence, prevention, projection, and protection.

Nuclear deterrence remains the fundamental aspect of our strategy. It is a guarantee against any threat to our vital interests, whatever the origin or form may be, in a world where vigilance is still imperative. However, it is essential for us to rethink our nuclear position during the period of respite that the present strategic situation offers. Furthermore, our deterrence capacity, which already contributes to the overall Atlantic Alliance deterrence capacity, is to become much more European. Finally, we are fully aware of our responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council and as a signatory of the NPT.

Prevention becomes a priority. First and foremost, this is a political move in which military means, in particular intelligence and prepositioned forces, play a central role in avoiding the return or the appearance of potentially conflictive dangers, risks or situations. An efficient prevention strategy is a condition upon which our security depends.

Projection of power becomes, therefore, the priority mission for our forces. The front line of our Defence and of our Security is henceforth at a distance from our national territory. Furthermore, our international policy often sends our Armed Forces to faraway regions. Projection is therefore a priority objective for our classic forces. We must be capable of rapidly projecting abroad, particularly in Europe, in optimum security conditions, operational, coherent and modern Armed Forces, capable of immediately handling highly complex situations.

Such undertakings are impeded by conscription and entail reorganising the Armed Forces according to other principles.

Domestic protection and security are to be revised. The type of threats encountered at home (terrorism, drugs, etc.) is very different at present from those envisaged when hostile forces were present close to our borders, particularly during the Cold War period. The notion of domestic security is of greater importance than that of Defence.

Sources: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence

French Embassies in London and Washington.

For more information, go to French National Defense.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).