France and NATO

It might be a good time to remind myself of the sometimes fractious relationship between France and NATO, and in particular, France and the USA.

In 1966, President Charles de Gaulle withdrew France from NATO’s integrated military command structure.

He cited the overbearing, overarching dominance of the USA – which no one could deny because the USA was and is the dominant partner in terms of muscle power and its contribution to the upkeep of NATO.

France banned the stationing of weapons, including nuclear weapons, on its territory.

NATO’s political headquarters and SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe) moved from France to Belgium.

It was not until 2009 that Nicolas Sarkozy negotiated the return of France to the integrated military command and the Defence Planning Committee, the latter being disbanded the following year.

France remains the only NATO member outside the Nuclear Planning Group and unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, will not commit its nuclear-armed submarines to the alliance.

That is not to say that France has remained outside NATO’s missions, but it shows how France could decide unilaterally against which countries it was going to take action.

It’s a good time to remember that Donald Trump has railed against the cost that the USA bears in NATO, and how he has said that the USA has been taken for a ride and that the European countries must to pay more or risk losing NATO.