|The U.K.-France Defense Treaty: The Second ‘Saint Malo’ or the End of the CSDP?|
|Thursday, 17 November 2011 09:26|
For the international community which is accustomed to experiencing US/NATO-led military interventions, the recent UK/France-led intervention in Libya was quite unusual. In fact, the starting point of this atypical situation goes back to the UK-France defense cooperation treaties signed on November 2nd 2010. However, the intervention in Libya was an indicator showing that these treaties do not only consist of technical cooperation.
Since the very beginning, the UK and France, the two most powerful countries when it comes to military power within the EU, have adopted rather different stances towards the EU integration and the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). On one hand, the UK, which gives particular importance to its relations with the USA and does not opt for supranationality, has cautiously approached to the integration process. On the other hand, France has aimed to create a powerful EU in the face of the USA and reach political integration. This difference of vision is the main reason for the UK to adopt a Eurosceptic standpoint while France adopts a Europhile position. Due to its Euroskeptic position, the UK has not supported the creation of the ESDP operating alongside with the NATO.
However, by late 1998, the British government’s attitude began to change toward European defense and this shift culminated in signing of the historic St. Malo Declaration, which proposed that Europe’s joint defense be handled through the EU. The St. Malo summit was characterized as the success of French diplomacy and the shift of the British attitude which was against the creation of a military structure independent of the NATO.
The main factors that contributed to this change were the differentiation of the strategic goals of both the US and the UK during Balkan crisis in the 1990’s and the will of New Labor government in Britain, which brought with it a corresponding transformation in British attitudes toward Europe to adopt a more constructive role toward Europe in order to get votes. (1) This summit, apart from being the most important step to make the UK and France (which have followed different defense policies since the Suez Crisis) get closer to one other, have also brought a new dimension to the ESDP.
Yet, even though more than ten years have already passed since the St. Malo summit and some steps have been taken in this direction, today there is no considerable progress in the scope of the ESDP. Within this context, the first question that comes to mind is whether these new defense cooperation treaties would give the ESDP, which was renamed as the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) by the Lisbon Treaty, a new dimension; in other words, the question remains whether or not it would be a second St. Malo Declaration.
The defense cooperation treaties signed on November 2nd 2010, which have been considered as the most important step in the field of common defense since the St. Malo summit, envisage extensive military cooperation in order to shrink defense budget and 50 year-term cooperation in the field of nuclear safety. For that purpose, two countries agreed to build a jointly-run facility in Valduc (France) that will model the performance of UK and French nuclear warheads and materials in co-operation with a joint Technology Development Centre at Aldermaston (UK).
These treaties also allow the deployment of joint expeditionary forces of some 5,000 troops from each side. The force will be able to launch high-intensity peacekeeping, in addition to rescue or combat missions. Each country will retain a veto over every operation, which will operate under one chosen military commander at the time.
There will also be new co-operation on procurement, including a joint common support plan for the future fleets of A400M transport aircraft being bought by both countries. The two sides also agreed to work together over the next ten years on unmanned drone aircraft, as well as on nuclear submarine technology.
In addition tothese treaties create opportunities for UK and French aircraft to operate off carriers from both countries. Building primarily on a maritime task group co-operation around the French leaderCharles de Gaulle, by the early 2020s, the UK and France will aim to have , the ability to deploy a UK-French integrated carrier strike group by incorporating assets owned by both countries.
The two countries also decided to intensify cooperation in the field of the fight against terrorism and cyber attacks. (2)
These clauses, if implemented effectively, would contribute to create an important cooperation in the field of defense between two countries. Contrary to the St. Malo summit, these treaties can be seen this time as a triumph of British diplomacy and the change in French foreign policy, which was defending a military integration within the EU up until that point.(3)
The re-integration of France into the NATO command structure and the signature of defense cooperation treaties with the UK prove French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s pro-Atlantic tendency. Hence, it is not clear whether it has been France which has changed the UK’s Euroskeptic approach or it has been the UK which has drawn France away from its Europhile attitude. At this point, the second question that comes to mind is whether bilateral treaties, resulting from the consideration that the implementation of the CSDP would not be possible in the medium term, would or not limit the influence of Brussels in the field of defense.
In March 2001, BAE Systems (UK) and Dassault Aviation (France) have declared that they have agreed upon procedures to collaborate exclusively on the preparation and submission of a joint proposal to the UK and French Ministries of Defense for the design, development, production and support of a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). (4)
Additionally, the Flandres-Franco-British military exercise, which performed with the participation of 1,150 French and 450 British personnel from June 22nd to 29th 2011, was the first major event for the build-up of the British-French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, as described in the new defense treaties.
Concerning these progressions, the British ambassador to France, Sir Peter Westmacott said "the agreement has borne its first fruits." (5) Moreover, British Prime Minister David Cameron emphasizes that "this is not, as some have suggested, about weakening or pooling British or French sovereignty…this is not about a European army. This is not about sharing our nuclear deterrents.” (6) Sarkozy has also underlined that these treaties aim at shrinking the defense budget.
The Libya operation in March 2011 has been the phase of transition of new defense treaties from theory to practice. Soon after the announcement of the UN Security Council resolution on Libya, the UK and France launched an operation in order to impose a “no fly zone” across Libya on March 19, 2011. At the end of the March, NATO took over the operation.
After the defense cooperation treaties entered into force at the meeting between British and French Defense Ministers on July 1st 2011, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said “the Franco-British entente has allowed us to protect those who want freedom.” His British counterpart Liam Fox indicated that “the Defense and Security Co-operation Treaty reaffirm our commitment to work together whenever possible to promote international peace and security and dissuade unnecessary aggression. This is what we are doing with regards to Gaddafi's brutal regime.” (7) Throughout these statements, two defense ministers have drawn attention to the link between the new defense treaties and the Libya intervention.
As for USA’s position regarding these treaties, Liam Fox said that the Americans had been fully consulted and were happy with the agreement. (8) However, according to John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the UN,
Moreover, it would not be realistic to expect that the interests of the UK and France to always overlap. Any decision to deploy the envisioned joint expeditionary force is likely to represent as much of a political challenge as would a comparable decision within the EU or NATO. Would France be willing to send its aircraft carriers to defend the (British territory) Falkland Islands, with all the implications that it would have for its defense-cooperation ambitions in South America (especially with Brazil)? (10) Hence, the third question that comes to mind is whether France and the UK will be able to maintain this partnership even if it requires renouncing their national interests.
Even though it seems that new defense cooperation treaties are the results of budget austerities, they should be assessed as the steps of two powerful countries within the EU attempting to protect their place in the international arena. The endless struggle of NATO in Afghanistan and the wide range of security threats of the globalized world prompted Europeans to try to ensure the security of their own continent.
The cost of the CSDP, which could not make considerable progress up until now, for the EU is not only the defense expense which is over $300 billion (in 2009), but also the inefficient use of this amount due to lack of cooperation, disconnection of industrial bases, incompatibility of defense strategies. Factoring in the costs of military equipment, procedures, research expenses, and the other military efforts, the costs of each of the EU member states’ defense procedures are repeated nearly 27 times.
Thus, the agreement between the UK and France, which envisages performing joint exercises, cooperating in supplying technology and equipment, sharing information, and increasing the capacity of adaptation, is important progress that is desired to be realized within the EU. In this regard, this cooperation should be open to other member countries.
Even if the aim of these defense treaties are not the progression within the scope of the CSDP, the “Permanent Structured Cooperation” clause established by the Lisbon Treaty can ensure such progression in the long term. This clause is able to be the first step for the Member States whose military capabilities fulfill higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions. (11)
Even though military integration is a challenging and time-consuming process, the Union has its own mechanisms to achieve it. The only shortcoming for this integration is the political will, and as it has been in the examples of France and the UK, common interests can contribute to the formation of this political will.
(1) Michèle Bacot-Decrıaud, “Une politique de défense pour l’Union européenne: de la virtualité à la réalité? De quelques raisons d’un scepticisme”, Arès, No. 44, février 2000