For France, NATO Was Never Essential
For the first time in years, Merkel and Macron are mediating in the Ukraine conflict. Just at a time France’s president distanced himself from NATO. French security expert and director of the GMF Paris office, Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, states that Macron’s policy is also in the interest of Germany.
WELT: Ms. De Hoop Scheffer, what differentiates France’s relation with NATO compared to that of Germany and Eastern Europe?
Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer: The French have never perceived NATO as an essential protection from an existential threat against their country. Among politicians this is still a controversial issue. On the contrary, the Germans consider NATO as the most significant guarantor for security in Europe, which is why they look at European security and defense issue mainly through the prism of NATO. Obviously, the central role of NATO from the German standpoint goes back to the transatlantic relationship, which is still perceived as essential for the alliance. This sentiment is even stronger in Central and Eastern Europe, while France stresses the need to expand a European defense strategy as an addition to NATO.
WELT: There are historical differences, but apparently also disagreements when it comes to an analysis of the current situation?
Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer: That’s correct. France is extremely concerned that most allies seem to take U.S. engagement in European security for granted. Paris is convinced that the United States is increasingly trying to increase the burden-sharing with its partners, which is why Europeans need to be ready to become more strategically and operationally autonomous.
This is specifically true in the case of Africa and the Middle East where France is trying to “europeanize” its military operations in the fight against terrorism, while the United States is reviewing and realigning its position in the region. The more Europeans prove their ability to cooperate and intervene, the less they will be dependent on a U.S. ally that has become more picky and unpredictable.