PARIS In its first new national defense policy in 14 years, France has decided that its security lies within Europe and NATO, establishing a significant shift from the country's long-standing notions of moral and military self-sufficiency.
More than four decades ago, President Charles de Gaulle, angry with U.S. and British domination of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said France's military integration into the alliance had been "stripped of justification."
But now that the Soviet Union is gone and the European Union is more fully established, President Nicolas Sarkozy has decided that France is best served by participating fully with Washington and NATO, in part because the vast majority of members of the European Union are also members of the alliance.
The new military and security strategy, which Sarkozy will present in public after months of internal debate, calls for a smaller, more mobile French army, with savings spent instead on better intelligence and modern equipment.
Building a credible European defense is a French priority, the strategy says. But French plans were damaged by the Irish rejection of a new set of rules for the 27-nation European Union that would have made it easier for members to cooperate on defense. In fact, publication of the French white paper was delayed until after the Irish referendum on the so-called Lisbon Treaty, to avoid providing the Irish with another potential reason to vote no.
The new defense doctrine seeks to prepare France and Europe for a post-Soviet world in which conventional military threats are downgraded compared with a multitude of complex, global risks, from epidemics to terrorism and cyberwarfare.