Text Only | Disarmament Diplomacy | Disarmament Documentation | ACRONYM Reports
back to the acronym home page
WMD Possessors
About Acronym

Disarmament Documentation

Back to Disarmament Documentation

French President Nicholas Sarkozy, Munich Security Conference speech, 7 February 2009

Munich Security Conference: Selected speeches

For a full list of speeches go to www.securityconference.de.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy, Munich Security Conference speech, 7 February 2009

I am very happy to be here to talk about all these defence issues, friendship with the United States and solidarity between us, and to try to do so as frankly as possible, using the fewest possible political clichés.

First of all, we have reached the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Some had believed that we had entered a "unipolar world." We are [in fact] in a world of "relative powers". We must always keep this at the front of our minds when we develop all our strategies. As Angela Merkel and Donald Tusk have said, a single power can't resolve the world's major conflicts. The twenty-first century is seeing the emergence of major powers, who are saying: "we too want to give our opinion, we count too, we have interests to defend". Besides, we need these new great powers to exert pressure on the belligerents and achieve peace.

If we agree that we have entered the world of "relative powers", it means that the first consequence is the need for solidarity, Donald, and cooperation.

When there's only one great power, there's no need for cooperation, there's one who decides and the others who follow. When there are "relative powers", then solidarity and cooperation are necessary. The twenty-first century will be the century of cooperation and solidarity. This is, moreover, why I am so committed to friendship with the United States.

Friendship as independent allies, respecting each other's values. What has history taught us? That no empire, even the largest, can defeat the longing for freedom. All of us, in the course of our history, have found ourselves confronted with this painful reality. All of us, not just in the twentieth century, with the disillusionment of the USSR, but when we look back at our history, at some point have thought we were an empire able to treat others' longing for freedom with disdain. It isn't just in Europe that there's a longing for freedom; it's all over the world. We have all - and, in her history, like the others, France has - had to deal with great disillusionment when we forgot that freedom was for everyone.

Also, we are all confronted with the same risks: terrorism, proliferation, cyber attacks, climate risks, competition for commodities, and for water, as we're seeing in Darfur.

Then there's the family, let's call it the Western family, Europe and America: we have common values, we have together to defend them, not impose them on others, but persuade them to adopt them.

Europe has opted to build the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance. Europe has built its peace based on these two pillars. France is deeply committed to these two pillars.

But becoming a member of the European Union or of NATO isn't a right. Because if it's a right, that means there aren't any conditions, that you just have to knock at the door to go in. With that system we would destroy Europe and NATO. To join the European Union and join NATO you have to share values. Donald, you didn't say too much about values, values are the key. If you don't share its values, you aren't a member of the family. To join the European Union and NATO, a country has to be capable of contributing to the joint enterprise, taking on heavy commitments and fulfilling them. In the European Union, a country has to be ready to share its sovereignty, and in NATO a country has to be ready to lend assistance to an ally under armed attack. That's what families do. If you don't ensure this, there's no longer a family. Because if there's a right to join and once one's joined there's no longer any obligation, then there's no longer a family. Why have countries dreamed of joining the European Union? Because it was founded on solidarity, I'll come back to this.

Why was NATO perceived to afford protection for a number of East European countries which felt - let's say it - abandoned by Western Europe? Because there were rules, because there was article 5, and because when you join NATO you shoulder your share of the responsibilities. I wanted to say this because I believe in Europe and I believe in NATO, but it isn't an inn whose door is open to the four winds with anyone who wants to come in because he's seen a light burning being able to. Countries can come in who are ready to share our values, defend them and take on internal obligations: democracy, settling their internal problems with their minorities, and their vision of the future - and let me add - with everyone sharing the burden pro rata. I agree with what's been said regarding Ukraine and Georgia. At the Bucharest summit, Angela and I shared the same conviction and said the same things. I don't feel myself any less of a friend of Ukraine or Georgia for saying that. I simply say that when it comes to NATO and Europe, it's so important for world stability for us to remember the family rules. In symposia, people often tend to draw more attention to the rights of a family than to its obligations.


A word on Russia. There has been the gas crisis; there has been the crisis with Georgia. Let's be straight about this: there's growing mistrust between the European Union and Russia. On one side, some of our members have a fear vis-à-vis Russia. On the other, Russia has the historic fear of encirclement. We have to restore confidence. I want to face up to my responsibilities; I am doing so. I don't believe that today's Russia is a military threat to the European Union and to NATO. I know that it isn't done, when you are a head of State, to assert a conviction and yet I'm choosing to do so. I don't believe the primary risk for NATO and the European Union is a Russian military aggression. I don't believe it. I don't believe it for a number of reasons and the first is that Russia has so many incredible domestic challenges facing her that I can't see her as a direct threat to NATO or Europe. Besides, a country with so many problems with its demography isn't one spontaneously, and history has shown this on every continent, driven to military aggressiveness towards its neighbours.

I'd add that it would all the same be unlikely, given all the world's problems, for there to be a clash between Russia and Europe at a time when we have technology and capital and Russia has energy. So that things are clear, France is certainly the country in Europe the least dependent on Russian gas since, thanks to nuclear power, she is energy independent. So what I'm saying here can't be called weakness, or fear or self-interest, but simply a reading of the situation.

In fact from it I draw the conclusion that we must appeal to everyone to stay very calm. We've never seen a supplier fall out with his customers. People talk a lot about Europe's dependence; in our system, I've never seen a customer having to thank the supplier. So it's urgent to restore confidence between Russia and the European Union. Urgent. The first thing for us to do is encourage the United States and Russia to conclude this year a "post Start" agreement on reducing their nuclear arsenals.


Russia must pursue her cooperation with the European Union, and here again I'm facing up to my responsibilities: I think that one goal would be for the European Union and Russia one day to build a common economic and people-oriented area. Indeed, how did we - the French and Germans - stop waging war between us - if not by building a common economic and people-oriented area? Why wouldn't what the Germans and French did, and which works, not work between Russia and the European Union? A goal, for us both, of a common economic and people-oriented area. Naturally, we have to reject dialectics and threats. In the gas crisis Donald was talking about, there are only losers.

Only losers! Russia, who has lost some of her credibility. And, I'm sorry, but I'm not sure that Ukraine has emerged stronger from all this. And I don't think we Europeans have emerged stronger either. A strategy which makes only losers is a strategy which has to be abandoned.


Then we've got another issue: the Arctic. What's climate change leading to?

The opening-up of the Northern Passage. We aren't going to make the Arctic the new territory of a conflict between the United States, Russia and the European Union, that would be absolutely senseless. Besides, I think we have to take President Medvedev at his word. Ask him what he means by his concept of a pan-European security concept and discuss it together, since, after all, one day, we, Russia, like the European Union and United States, might be threatened by missiles from a terrorist State. It's wholly in our interest together to build, after the economic and people-oriented area, a security area.


A word on France's defence policy. The world is changing. So is France. As soon as I was elected, I initiated a massive overhaul of our defence and security policy. We are maintaining our defence effort. I want to tell you that between now and 2020 we are going to allocate €377 billion to our armed forces.

We will keep our nuclear deterrent alongside the British, with whom we want moreover to work hand in hand. How could one imagine Europe's only two military nuclear powers not working together? I greatly welcomed the British government and Gordon Brown's courageous decision to ponder and work on a defence policy. How could one imagine building Europe and at the same time having two military nuclear powers not talking to each other, not working together? In the future this will, moreover, lead to thinking about how these - inevitably independent - nuclear powers can complement each other and Europe's overall security. So France will remain a military nuclear power.


And then there's Defence Europe. Let's be clear on this too. Defence Europe is a priority. Angela Merkel and I wrote a joint article. We want to work with the Germans to make it a military and political priority. I say to all Europeans, it's a test. It's a test for Europe. Does Europe want peace or does it want to be left in peace? I'd like you to think about this. Do you want peace or do you want to be left in peace? It isn't the same policy, it isn't the same strategy, and the consequences aren't the same. If you want peace, you have to give yourselves the means to exist as an economic, financial, political and military power. You want to be left in peace? If so, you have to curl up very small, stay in your corner, cover your eyes, block your ears, and not talk too loudly, and for a time you will be left in peace. Until the moment when it's discovered that you haven't got the means to defend yourself. But at that point, it will be too late. Defence Europe is in everyone's interest. Everyone's, Donald. You, East Europeans, at last back in the family, must make your contribution to ensuring our security. Really, frankly, it was good news for Europe that at the time of the conflict between Georgia - whom we had to help and save - and Russia, that Europe went on the front line, in agreement, Vice President Biden, with the United States.

Europe did its job better than it did at the time of Bosnia. Europe existed and Europe was able to act. It's reassuring for all the East European countries to be able to say to themselves: Europe exists, Europe is giving itself the means to defend itself and use its power in pursuit of a policy. But it's also in the United States' interest. Who could say that the United States doesn't need a strong ally, a powerful ally? Do you believe the United States doesn't need a strong Europe? It's in our interest for the United States to be strong. It's in the United States' interest for Europe to be strong. Under the French presidency, we decided, with Javier Solana, on a coherent defence policy. I thank Gordon Brown for the initiatives he has taken, but it's a test, we mustn't get this wrong. To my mind, Europe isn't just a market, it isn't just to do with the economy, as Donald said earlier, it's also to do with values. Do you know any part of the world which can be rich without providing for its defence? Do you know of any world organization which can promote values and ask others to defend them? To my mind, things are clear: it's Defence Europe and NATO, not Defence Europe or NATO. Both together. It's because we are going to strengthen Defence Europe that NATO will have to be strengthened. It was a major error for people to think that by weakening one they could strengthen the other. I accept responsibility for this political choice which hasn't been such an easy one in France up until now.


I have to say, moreover, that for me this goes hand in hand with a deepening of the relationship with Germany, our ally and friend. The Franco-German Brigade was created by François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl. Angela Merkel and I wanted there to be no more taboos, we wanted things to change. So France would be happy to welcome a German army battalion on her soil. I think that in the twenty-first century, it's really time to turn the page. My dear friends, friendship between France and Germany - I say this here - isn't demonstrated by France putting soldiers in Germany, but by France being honoured to have German soldiers on the territory of the French Republic. This is friendship between France and Germany. This is the new step, the building of a new framework. It's a historic act, chère Angela. I am very proud that we're organizing the NATO summit together.

What finer symbol of the success of what those preceding us have done?


NATO, to conclude. NATO has changed a great deal. But what isn't changing is the fundamental principle that has united us since the Washington Treaty. Frankly, I would never have thought that article 5 would be used by all the Allies in support of the United States. When the United States was attacked, the whole of NATO rallied to the United States' side.

Frankly, who, before 2001, would have said that the first time article 5 would be invoked, would be to defend the United States? We will continue in that direction. Moreover, to conclude on this, I want to tell you that France has often been suspected of wanting to weaken NATO. It's unfair, but that's how it was. It was all the more ridiculous in that at the same time as France was suspected of wanting to weaken NATO, she was playing an increasing role in it. The more people said we weren't in it, the more we were in it! In France, people were led to believe that NATO was a threat to our independence. No one wondered why we were the only ones raising this question. I personally will never do anything which undermines my country's independence. Never! But the alliance with the United States and the alliance with Europe don't undermine my country's independence; they strengthen my country's independence. That's what I'll explain to the French when the time comes. This moment is drawing nearer. I'm convinced that France can upgrade her relations with NATO while being an independent ally and a free partner of the United States. I'd also like to say, Vice President Biden, that we were all very happy to see the decisions President Obama took on Guantanamo. We share these values and the America we love is the America who defends its values and defends and exercises human rights. I can tell you that all Europeans were relieved by the decision President Obama took on the Guantanamo question.

(...) Since I know what Vice President Biden, who sent me his speech beforehand, is going to say - and I had the opportunity to talk to President Obama about this, like them, I think that upgrading the relations between France and NATO will benefit the Alliance, Europe and France. Listen, when you want to be well organized, it's better to know what's going to be said! Frankly, I can't criticize the Americans for saying, "this is what we're going to say", and they knew pretty much what I was going to say as well. Being organized is part of good management.

Between now and the Strasbourg/Kehl summit, we'll have a debate in France. This is a debate I'll be conducting, as always, frankly and honestly with the French people.

We have friends, we have allies, I know my family, I know the values we've got to defend to remain true to the French Republic's ideal. It's doubtless time to review NATO's strategy and for France and Germany to accept a number of the consequences. You can be sure that between now and April we'll try to live up to a great ambition for our family.

Source: Munich Security Conference, www.securityconference.de.

Back to the Top of the Page