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Why America and Europe Need Each Other ?

"When there are serious risks at stake, the planning and the decisions of the operations have to be shared among those who contribute. Can nations seriously be expected to risk the life of their soldiers if they are given no voice in why and how they will be engaged ? Joint fighting and sacrifices entail joint decision-making." Excerpt of the speech hold by Mrs Michèle Alliot-Marie, French Minister of Defense, on behalf of the National Defense University in Washington D.C., October 17th, 2002. Before she met with US Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld in the Pentagon to discuss "defense issues of mutual interest". Source: French MoD, Paris and French Embassy, Washington D.C.

DoD Photo by Helene C. Stikkel

The United States and France have been good and close allies for over 225 years. We have been friends since the very beginning of your Republic. Our friendship has lasted because both our republics are founded on the same values. Our friendship has grown stronger because we have often had to defend those values together. We may have been confronted with differences of opinion from time to time, on security matters such as NATO or Bosnia or on other issues related to the environment or trade, but the values our two countries championed in the eighteenth century are as valid now as they were then.

Since September 11, we have understood again that each generation has to defend those values against threats which were unimaginable to our predecessors. This underlines that, as members of the same family, we are capable of sustaining a lively debate and find, when the time comes, proper solutions.

On both sides of the Atlantic, talents and capabilities may not be identical but they certainly are complementary and can be made to converge. The US is second to none in military power and declares that it is ready to lead and take risks.

Europeans are ready to do their duty within an international legal framework. France lost 78 soldiers in Bosnia while 250 were wounded. Europeans also believe they can do a lot to promote development and nation-building. Europeans think soft power can make serious contributions.

On both sides of the Atlantic, our governments are solid democracies which have to report to legislatures and public opinion. Our leaders need to explain, to convince and to create consensus around the policies they put forward. This basic discipline cannot be ignored. It is a source of strength provided governments can offer vision and perspective.

Yet, rarely have the public exchanges between Americans and Europeans included so many points of friction. Rarely have the subjects of controversy been so numerous between both sides of the Atlantic.

The challenges of this century are too serious for us to let our suspicions or our temper get the better of us. This should be a time for serious dialogue. We owe it to the victims of the vicious attacks of September 11.

We owe it to each other because our people and our futures are inextricably linked in a global society which we have to build and define together. This century is turning out to be a difficult and unpredictable one. We will need each other’s strength, wisdom and support.

  • Wake up call on Terrorism

September 11 has reminded us that some of the violent groups that flourish in troubled countries pursue their aims on a global scale.

Some societies and their governments, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, are not doing well on the arduous road to modernization. States are collapsing. Poverty and despair are on the rise again.

Globalization brings growth, welfare, foreign investment and increased exchanges but it also breeds resentment and frustration among those who cannot adapt to it. Unresolved regional conflicts as well as the misery and despair of people are used as a pretext by fanatical groups to promote radical, simplistic and violent solutions.

They have chosen to target the United States and Europe because they perceive them to be responsible for the failures of their societies and regions. Advanced, technology-based societies are indeed vulnerable because they depend on networks of all sorts.

Open democratic societies are expected to protect their citizens but they cannot exercise strict controls on their activities.

The full protection of our populations against all types of potential threats is probably unattainable because it would be very expensive and disruptive of our basic freedoms.

We therefore have to wage an obstinate and audacious war against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups that threaten us both on the international and the domestic fronts. My message to you is simple : we want to be able to cooperate with you and with all other members of the coalition in the struggle against terrorism and against new challenges and threats that might emerge.

Along with the United States, we are now fully mobilized in the global war against international terrorism.

However, we have the feeling that we have not always been well understood in Washington, even though our national security interests have been for some time confronted with terrorism. The elimination of global terrorism will require determination, patience, close cooperation as well as, let’s face it, luck.

This is why our first priority should be to keep together the tightly knit coalition against terrorism that has been assembled and to make it work.

  • France and Islamic Terrorism

We have had first hand experience of these groups for years. On October 23rd 1983, an attack on our paratroopers’ headquarters in Lebanon killed 58 of our young soldiers. The same day, 241 of yours were also assassinated in Beirut by the Islamic Jihad.

In 1995, France was again struck by an Algerian Islamic terrorist group.

On May 8 of this year, 11 technicians from our procurement agency were killed in car bombing in Karachi. Only last week, a French tanker was attacked off the coast of Yemen, and several French citizens were among the victims in Bali.

France is in fact a double target : as a Western country of course, but also as a major Ally of the United States in the struggle against terrorism.

Facing such a threat, France has developed an efficient anti-terrorist tool for more than 20 years.

We have specialized our services, centralized all the files linked to terrorism in a special court of law in Paris and created a real synergy between intelligence and law enforcement. We have also improved our homeland surveillance.

At the same time, we have developed a strong co-operation along bilateral as well as in multilateral avenues.

I know that the contribution of the French anti-terrorist units (intelligence, investigative services) and judges is deeply appreciated in this country. France is also very active on the multilateral front, both within the G8 and the European Union.

  • France is ready to fulfill its responsibilities

In the present situation we all have to carry our share of the burden. Let me emphasize that France takes security matters very seriously. We know that we may have to use force in order to respond to the diversified challenges that face all open societies. President Chirac is determined to see our military capabilities improved and modernized.

We intend to remain a responsible strategic player. We are also determined to remain a reliable partner for our allies. We want our forces to remain capable partners in high intensity conflicts along with yours. I am a fortunate Defense Minister. Last year, our Armed Forces completed the transition to an all volunteer force one year ahead of schedule.

I am also a fortunate defense minister because the Defense budget has been increased by 7.5 % for next year, the largest increase of any Ministry in next year’s budget. Our country has not experienced a comparable increase since the nineteen thirties.

In the same spirit, on September 11, the French Government sent its Parliament a bill requesting a 15% overall increase in real terms in procurement spending over the forthcoming six-year planning period. This will allow us to modernize and upgrade our forces and their capacity to be fully interoperable with yours:

-- We will improve our capabilities for precision strike in areas such as UAVs, air and sea-launched cruise missiles,

-- We will improve our projection capacities, thanks to a new fleet of attack helicopters and the renovation of our strategic transport fleet,

-- We will strengthen our communications by launching two communication satellites.

-- We have also decided to acquire a second aircraft carrier with her air wing of Rafale multi-role aircraft and E-2C Hawkeyes.

-- We are actively encouraging our European partners to professionalize and transform their forces and to develop capabilities which we could use together as a serious contribution in dealing with common challenges.

In spite of criticisms, European countries are effective contributors to the current global struggle:

Many Europeans have taken their full share of the burden in Afghanistan.

-- They have proved that they were ready to face the risks of the war on terrorism over the long term even if it means pursuing targets outside Europe.

-- They have sustained their losses and have not hesitated to go into battle as full allies. France has been an active contributor to operation "Enduring Freedom" by deploying a carrier task force for seven months and a bomber squadron in Central Asia for six months. Whether in Yemen during the attack on USS Cole or in the Ivory Coast, our forces stand shoulder to shoulder with their American comrades on a daily basis.

We, Europeans, are willing to take on the costly and dangerous responsibilities in helping to develop, stabilize and rebuild many places in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa.

Our continued effort in development assistance almost makes up for the gap that does exist in military spending between the two sides of the Atlantic.

I believe this is quite relevant to building long term security for all.

I also believe that when it comes to challenges from countries with WMD, most European countries and certainly France would be perfectly willing and able to play a role in a strategy that would have been determined jointly. We would thus act as full partners over time. Our military capabilities are far from insignificant, they will be improved and our political commitment would certainly be of value.

This is why, confronted with difficult choices in assessing threats and defining strategies, we should look at each other first and foremost as allies. But, to be the partner the US needs and deserves, I believe that Europe can and should do more.

-- We certainly do not always spend money efficiently and we should avoid duplications of various kinds. The forces we provide now to NATO operations are the same as those which are being readied for the European Union. Their capabilities should be significantly enhanced.

-- We do not pay sufficient attention to the need to transform our forces.

-- We have to fully take into account the fact that future wars will be fought in coalitions, either within NATO or among European Union member states.

-- We need to consult and to act with the combined strength of transatlantic allies.

-- But we also need to unlock the European potential within NATO and create the capability for Europeans to act as Europeans, where NATO as a whole is not engaged.

After September 11, the case for Europe to act with the United States when necessary, and on its own when you are engaged elsewhere, is even stronger.

Within NATO, many Europeans have been free-riders in security terms. They have consumed more than they have invested. The development of the ESDP is the only real chance for the US to see the Europeans accepting at last their full share of responsibilities and increasing their capabilities. The EU security and defense dimension is in the interest of the United States.

NATO should be the natural forum for in depth discussions of the threats that affect all of its members and of the best strategy for action. Its potential should be effectively put to use when there is a need for action.

When there are serious risks at stake, the planning and the decisions of the operations have to be shared among those who contribute. Can nations seriously be expected to risk the life of their soldiers if they are given no voice in why and how they will be engaged ? Joint fighting and sacrifices entail joint decision-making.

  • Iraq

Indeed this is how we should approach any action that would be required to deal with states that refuse to abide by the rules of the international community and that represent a potential threat.

Responsible nations should, within the appropriate legal framework for action with respect to such countries, work out which actions may be required and their timing, share their vision of the future of the country and the region concerned.

Together we stand stronger. There is no reason why we could not deal with the Iraqi situation in this way.

The weapons of mass destruction that Iraq is suspected of having accumulated illegally must be found and destroyed in order to preserve regional and global stability. Such an operation will be difficult and dangerous. It has to be undertaken with the full support of the international community. This has to be done by inspectors with a strong mandate, who have to be granted full access to all known sites and to all other places in the country.

This approach would allow us to retain a broad consensus within the region and among allies and to apply continuous pressure on the Iraqi regime. This is neither complacent nor weak.

The determination of the international community has already forced Saddam Hussein to readmit the inspectors. He will have to provide them with full and unrestricted access to all sites or face the consequences.

The UN Security Council remains the only tool we have in order to provide legitimacy and to create binding legal obligations for all countries.

It has proved to be flexible and responsive to the requirements of difficult situations. Its unity is its main strength because when its members act together they reflect the determination of the international community.

Should Iraq try to escape its obligations or be proved to be cheating, there is no doubt that the Security Council would have to act quickly and effectively.

This would be the second step France has promoted in a two step approach.

Once the violations were established, France would be ready to draw the appropriate conclusions.

  • Americans and Europe need each other

In conclusion, let me stress again why America and Europe need each other. Current debates can bring us even closer together.

Europeans could learn from the Americans that there are some threats that they tend to underestimate. Along with the Europeans, the Americans might want to look at the broader picture, the value of multilateral processes and the difficulty of changing the course of whole societies from the outside.

We need to think far and to think broadly. We need to do it together now. That will make us stronger on all sides. Europe and the United states are stronger together. This is the basic tenet we should keep in mind when we meet uncertainty and devastation.

We are not rivals but partners in building stability and trust. Our common voice can be very persuasive. As in the past, it can be decisive in defending our common values.

Let us find it and use it.

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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).