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French Defense White Paper, 17 June 2008

See also: The French White Paper on defence and national security, French Embassy in Washington.


Every period in history has its own spirit of the time. The twenty-first century's is globalization. Our prime objective is to find our place in this new world. (…)

It is our duty to be at the forefront of it. We are a permanent member of the UN Security Council, we bear a special responsibility for maintaining peace and international security. Being a permanent member isn't about status or privilege. It's a mission serving the world. (…)

Uncertainty is a hallmark of today's world. Globalization has brought uncertainty. So uncertainty is what has driven the development of a new strategy for France. This strategy will be based on the ability to anticipate and take decisions autonomously. (…)


For 15 years, France hasn't been threatened by invasion. The nature of the threats has changed, they are diverse and evolving. They seem distant to us, but, let's make no mistake, our country, like the rest of Europe, could be struck tomorrow. France and the French must be prepared for these threats. (…)

So today, the immediate threat is that of a terrorist attack. (…)

Proliferation is continuing to spread. A growing number of countries are going to have ballistic missiles - and I have to say their range is increasing, reaching several thousand kilometres, far enough to strike Europe.

The risk of cyber attacks which could paralyse the nation is no longer only a mere possibility: France and several European countries have recently fallen victim to them.

Finally, the space systems are themselves no longer invulnerable. Yet they are essential to our developed societies.

In the face of these threats, the separation between internal and external security is fading. It's urgent for France to take this on board. This is why the White Paper defines a new national security strategy. It's why the Prime Minister and I have decided to set up a new Defence and National Security Council, which I shall chair, that will be the government forum for debate where decisions will be taken on implementing this strategy. It will be able to draw on the analyses of a highly qualified Consultative Defence and National Security Council. (…)


The challenges are huge. As Head of the Armed Forces, I am conscious of this. Today I tell you: France will remain a great power, a great diplomatic power and a great military power, I pledge this. (…)

The truth is that we must stop keeping on patching up some of the equipment you use every day: 45-year-old tanker aircraft, 28-year-old light armoured vehicles and 30-year-old Puma helicopters. So we have to put more investment into equipment. And for this, choices have to be made.

The truth is that we must stop thinking that our armed forces are judged only by their manpower strengths. We must have equipped, trained and modernized armed forces. In the financial context I've talked about, we have to make choices and look at the situation as it is. (…)

This is what we're doing today: tailoring our defence to the reality or probability of the threats over the next 15 years and finding the additional financial resources to guarantee it the equipment it needs. Easier said than done, I'm coming to this.

This is why I pledge to devote €377 billion by 2020 to our armed forces, including €200 billion for equipment. Let me be clear about this: the defence budget won't be cut: taking account of inflation, it will start rising in 2012, thus during my term of office. (…)

The reforms we have entrusted to Hervé Morin: €3 billion more a year for equipping the armed forces. It's a fair sum, after all: €3 billion a year in the current context. It's a rise of nearly 20% in the equipment budget [from €15 to 18 billion]. (…)


But we must now update the organization of our support services. We must streamline our defence estate. We must reduce manpower to the level we need to fulfil our operational objectives. In 6-7 years' time, we will have a total of 225,000 civilian and military defence personnel. The army will have 131,000, the air force 50,000 and the navy 44,000. I know, and I accept responsibility for it; it's a substantial reduction. The bulk of the cuts will fall on support and administrative staff - people often say this, but it's so rarely done. (…)


From now on, our defence and national security effort will focus on five major strategic missions: this applies both to the forces and administrative services.

France must have genuine autonomy when it comes to [situation] assessment and decision-making. It's by knowing, ourselves, what is actually happening in the world and anticipating crises that we'll guarantee our independence and the security of the French. (…) I have decided on a massive investment in our intelligence - and particularly space-based intelligence - capabilities, which will benefit equally military chiefs and political decision-makers. (…)

And with the same aim in mind I have decided to create at the Elysée the post of intelligence coordinator. He/she will direct the services and ensure their consistency of action.

Second mission. Deterrence is a fundamental component of our strategy. I spoke on this subject in Cherbourg, on 21 March this year. Some people tell us that nuclear deterrence isn't adapted to the twenty-first century. I don't believe this at all. First of all because it is the nation's life insurance in an uncertain world. Secondly, because it guarantees our independence and freedom of action in the face of any threat against our vital interests or blackmail designed to damage them. So I intend France to have such capabilities so long as nuclear weapons are necessary for our security.

Thirdly: Europe and France are today more exposed. The task of "protecting" the people and territory must thus be given priority. We must protect ourselves against any major crisis on national territory, regardless of whether or not it's deliberate. This is why we must give ourselves a system for warning and informing people. This is why you must have chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protective equipment. This is why we must develop advanced ballistic missile launch detection systems.

In the face of cyber attacks, I have decided to provide France, for the first time, with defensive and offensive capabilities, for all government departments, specialized services and the armed forces. (…)

Fourthly: France's intervention capabilities will be very significant. Frankly, having 30,000 combat-ready troops, 70 combat planes, one aircraft carrier group and two naval groups isn't degrading our military forces. (…)

These capabilities will have to be adapted so as to be able to act on the priority strategic arc to defend France's interests. We have analysed this strategic arc, it runs from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.

Fifthly: to be capable of making choices also means accepting a major reorientation of the way we contribute to crisis prevention.

We must adapt our pre-positioning capabilities. I have no hesitation in using the word, refocus them on our areas of strategic interest, particularly the strategic axis I've talked about. This is what lies behind the agreement we have concluded with the United Arab Emirates.


So I have decided to make all our defence agreements public. We're going to update our agreements in Africa and rationalize our military bases. This doesn't mean we're abandoning Africa to its own devices. It's the absolute opposite. We want to cooperate with all European and African countries which share with us the idea that Africa is a key to international development and thus security for the coming years. (…)


Everyone can clearly see that the current challenges call for collective and coordinated responses. First of all because we are forging a common destiny with our European partners and allies. (…)

Nevertheless, our armed forces are and will remain national. They won't be integrated into any supranational armed forces, over which we'd have no control. That's clear. (…)

Acting together means building Defence Europe. It's our priority. The situation is simple: today Europeans haven't got the military capabilities commensurate with their weight in the world, which would guarantee our long-term prosperity. (…)

Regardless of the future of the Lisbon Treaty, I won't change my mind. I intend to make the defence and security policy an example of the Europe that delivers, the Europe which addresses the Europeans' needs.

The priority: in Europe, pragmatically, to build modern, robust, flexible and interoperable capabilities, i.e. capable of working together. How can you have a Europe as a political power if it has no diplomatic and military means to implement its political decisions?

The Europeans must be able to deploy 60,000 troops, simultaneously, in distant operations. We won't build these capabilities without adequate long-term defence efforts. But these efforts must no longer be disparate, rival or unfairly shared.

The European Union alone has all the military, political and financial instruments necessary for an in-depth stabilization of the regions in crisis. (…)

But who can believe that a fragmented European industry, competing in narrow markets, will meet our needs and survive international competition? (…)

There's only one way forward: to galvanize the European armaments market, everywhere foster cooperation and closer ties between companies so that they form European groups big enough to compete internationally, and encourage exports with due regard for international rules and the principle of responsibility. If we don't do this, we'll pay the price for it tomorrow. (…)

The French presidency of the European Union which is starting in less than two weeks will, I fervently hope, be the first stage in a genuine revitalization of European defence for the next few years. (…)


Since 1949, France has been a member of the Atlantic Alliance. I repeat: since 1949. France is even a founding member of the Atlantic Alliance. And today France is one of the main troop contributors. (…)

The Cold War is over. In Europe, our partners are almost all members of the Alliance. They don't understand why we persist in standing apart. In Europe, people continue to wonder whether France wants to make Defence Europe rival NATO. Because of this, we aren't Europeanizing NATO enough or moving Defence Europe forward. Note what's happened - it's very interesting, very interesting. We've got an Alliance which isn't sufficiently Europeanized, and a Defence Europe which isn't moving forward. That's really great, isn't it!

Our position, outside the military command, fosters suspicion as to the goal of our European ambition. (…)

Today, the White Paper Commission concludes - the White Paper Commission, not me - that nothing prevents our participation in NATO's military structures. France is an independent, free partner. I wholly concur with the principles General de Gaulle laid down in his time. What are they?

- France will, in all circumstances, retain total discretion in the deployment of her troops;

- France will place no military contingent permanently under NATO command in time of peace;

- France's nuclear deterrence will remain strictly national, even though I'm certain that the very existence of our deterrent contributes to the security of the whole of Europe.

On the basis of these principles which everyone in the Alliance respects, understands, and recognizes, we'll be able to modernize our relations with NATO without fearing for our independence, without the risk of being unwillingly dragged into a war. With France resuming her full place in NATO, it would be an Alliance attaching greater importance to Europe. Personally I'd like a more European alliance. Explain to me how you can make a more European alliance without France. (…) Let's begin by revitalizing European defence over the next few months. Since, to my mind, there can be progress in integrating France into NATO only if there's first progress in Defence Europe. Then we'll prepare with Germany the Alliance's 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, which will be a strong symbol of Europe's growing role and the renovation of the transatlantic partnership. (…).


(…) To begin with, we are going to make good the main shortfalls: force protection, strategic transport and air mobility. Then we're going to modernize the air-force and naval equipment, speeding up the process. In particular, we'll take the decision to launch the second aircraft carrier programme at a later date, since there's no urgency for us to do it now. (…)


French troops aren't the President of the Republic's lead soldiers; they are there to do the will of our country. A clear doctrine, which everyone will be familiar with, will govern their commitment to an operation. Parliament will be systematically informed of the deployment of troops in operations. Parliament will systematically have a vote on such a deployment whenever it exceeds four months. (…)./.

Source: France Ministry of Foreign Affairs, www.diplomatie.fr.

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