Sarkozy presents new security doctrine for France
New security doctrine for France places greater emphasis on the intelligence war and sets the stage for major cuts in military.17 June 2008
PARIS - President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday presents a new security doctrine for France that places greater emphasis on the intelligence war and sets the stage for major cuts in the armed forces.
In a key address as commander-in-chief, Sarkozy is to outline his defence strategy to some 3,000 senior officers in Paris before touring the headquarters of the DRM military intelligence agency at an air base outside the capital.
The speech follows the release on Monday of a much-awaited white paper on defence that confirmed France's goal of returning to NATO's command and said better intelligence was needed to confront the threats of the post-September 11 world.
Written by a blue-ribbon panel of 35 experts, the white paper called for a sizeable cut of 54,000 military and civilian defence ministry personnel over the next six or seven years, paring down the current staffing level of 320,000.
Defence Minister Herve Morin is set to announce closures of some 50 military bases, garrisons and other defence facilities next month in a move that has already touched off protests in towns that fear economic hardship.
The new doctrine reflects a shift for France, which has the largest army of the European Union, to make homeland security part of its defence strategy in the age of terrorism, cyber-attacks and natural disasters.
"For the first time in centuries, France does not base its defence policy on the hypothesis of a major military conflict in Europe and that is quite revolutionary," said Bruno Tertrais, a member of the expert panel.
"For the first time, we are dealing simultaneously with defence and homeland security issues."
France's defence spending will total EUR 377 billion from 2009 to 2020, according to the document, with funds for military satellites to be doubled.
The new policy sets at 30,000 the number of combat-ready troops, down from its current targeted level of 50,000, and calls for shutting down some of France's four permanent bases in Africa.
Underscoring the focus on intelligence-gathering, a new national security council will be set up at the Elysee palace and a former ambassador to Iraq and Algeria, Bernard Bajolet, has been named to the newly-created post of national intelligence coordinator.
The last defence review was carried out in 1994 under president Jacques Chirac who focussed on consolidating the gains of the end of the Cold War. A previous one was drafted in 1972.
"There is a very strong emphasis on intelligence, recognising that the world may not be more dangerous than it was in 1994 when we did the previous white paper, but it seems more unpredictable," said Tertrais.
Tertrais also said the white paper recognises that France lacks the means to assess strategic developments in Asia, suggesting it could boost its intelligence-gathering means in that region.
"This is a major shift from external security to interior security," said Jean-Pierre Maulny, the deputy director of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies.
"In one sense, it creates the impression of more modest French ambitions abroad and a return to protecting borders," he said.
The white paper calls on France to participate at all levels of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), confirming Sarkozy's intention to bring France back into the integrated command, which it left in 1966.
"This is a rapprochement with the Americans," said Maulny.
Unions representing state workers called for a strike on Wednesday to protest what they call a "scuppering of the defence apparatus" with the planned cuts to the military and civilian defence staff.
A bill is to be presented to parliament in the fall formalising the changes.
[AFP / Expatica]