by Hartmut Bühl, Publisher, Paris
In early June 2022, the French “Forum de Défense et de Stratégie” (FDS) in cooperation with the French Embassy in Berlin and with the support of the President of EuroDefense-Germany, Ralph Thiele, organised a high-level meeting on transatlantic security architecture with the participation of senior officials from different ministries, leading military personalities from both countries and experts from think tanks.
In her opening remarks, Ambassador of France Anne-Marie
Descôtes underlined the importance of Franco-German relations for Europe and the transatlantic security architecture in a time of war and turmoil. Can the Paris-Berlin duo continue to play its leading role in Europe? What are the next steps on bilateral and European armaments projects?
Laurent Borzillo, President of FDS, asked the participants to discuss all issues with a great degree of openness, even those which are normally avoided. “Only openness can bring us forward”, he said.
Some essential points from the two days
The conference aimed to shed light on Euro-Atlantic defence structures. It was noteworthy that the representatives of France in particular underlined their unwavering support for NATO.
- The answers to the issue of Europeanisation of French nuclear weapons remained vague, but it became clear that President Macron, like his predecessors, remains true to the credo that deterrence is not divisible. A consensus emerged around the formulation of one participant that French nuclear weapons have a deterrent effect in favour of Europe simply by their presence. There was no doubt about the value of US nuclear potential in Europe.
- There was widespread agreement on the topic of the use of space, not only because of its outstanding strategic military importance, but also for climate research, agriculture and many other areas. Participants agreed that France and Germany should therefore pursue common goals in their European space activities.
- The exchange of ideas on cyber security led to consensus around the idea that disruptive technologies have a Catalytic effect on hybrid methods and tools. Nearly 20 new technologies have proved relevant for expanding the arsenal of hybrid actors and enlarging the scope of their activities. Cyber is a key component of all these technologies. The role Europe should play in the fight for cybersecurity however was somewhat ambiguous.
- In various discussions on armaments cooperation it was clear to all that further confidence-building is needed to overcome current obstacles. Negotiations at industry level were characterised by distrust due to bad experiences in the past. The Germans were accused of egoism and ‘stubbornness’, while the French were accused of a ‘lack of willingness’ to compromise on technology exchange. In addition, there are conceptual differences on use and exports. It became very clear that France’s vertical system of decision taking does not always sit easily with the German process in which the Bundestag is the master of decisions over the Bundeswehr in peacetime.
Two partners so far apart and yet so close
“The conference was a significant event and undoubtedly a driver for Franco-German relations. Both countries have tasks ahead of them to further the cohesion of European nations on matters of security and defence. Together with other Europeans, both will be able to make a decisive contribution to Europe becoming a strong and reliable pillar in NATO”, said Laurent Borzillo in his concluding remarks.
For me it became clear during the conference that both countries need to take the lead on European defence and security by reinforcing NATO which is now vigorously awake only four years after Macron’s remarks that the alliance was “brain dead” for lack of ideas and idealism. Today, NATO is more alive than at any time since the fall of the Berlin wall.
This change of paradigm must not be at the expense of Europe’s defence capability. Europe must be able to defend itself in an emergency. In Franco-German relations all that glitters is not gold. The two nations have different societies, rooted in their own and often mutually harmful history. Both can further progress through their differences, as we all know that differences are the drivers of progress and that progress is what the Union needs.