Academic journal article McNair Papers

Introduction

Academic journal article McNair Papers

Introduction

Article excerpt

Since 1989, French defense and security policy has been undercut by changes in the external environment and domestic pressures to deal with the challenge of economic modernization. The Soviet revolution of 1989, the reunification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the experience of coalition warfare during the Gulf War--all have challenged the assumptions and realities underlying the Gaullist synthesis. Above all, the French position on security independence has been put into question. The main hope has been for a European Alliance to supplant the American one over time in the face of a gradual process of change within Europe--but change has not been gradual within Europe. The European Union is challenged by discontent within Western Europe. A new Central Europe has emerged that has yet to find its place in European or global politics. A new Russia is emergent in which nationalism is defining an assertive role for the Russians within Europe, but at the same time the economic weakness of Russia limits its ability to play such a role.

Notably, the election of President Clinton has added another challenge. The French have grown used to an assertive American role within Europe and have defined their role in part as counterbalancing the challenge of the United States. Although this definition of the French role persists (the French press's treatment of the GATT debate is typical of this definition of the French role), many senior French government officials are more concerned about the withdrawal of the United States from active engagement within Europe than with the mindless countermanding of U.S. influence. For example, during a 1993 year end TV retrospective, General Moriollon was interviewed by a French journalist who asserted the following: "Isn't the US trying to assert its leadership through the UN? …

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