France and the RMA

By Laird, Robbin F.; Mey, Holger H. | McNair Papers, April 1999 | Go to article overview

France and the RMA


Laird, Robbin F., Mey, Holger H., McNair Papers


France has the most sophisticated defense industry in Europe. High-technology development and shaping systems integration are key priorities for French industry and the public sector. There is wide-scale social acceptance of the legitimacy for the use of military power and of the ability to use that power in a variety of diplomatic settings.

It would seem that France should be at the forefront of European thinking about the RMA; it has not. There has been resistance to confront the policy implications of an RMA for France akin to the broader reluctance to examine the changes necessary for France and Europe to become more competitive in the global economy. In addition, the American origin of the RMA rethink has led to reluctance to engage in a broad rethink of how to deal with France's "hegemonic" ally.

But the RMA as part of a broader process of change in the reorientation of France can be identified, and the dynamics of change associated with framing a French approach to the RMA analyzed. The purpose of this chapter is to do both--identify the framework variables affecting the emergence of a French approach to the RMA and then analyze the resultant dynamics of change in French strategic and military policy.

The relationship of technology to strategy and of the role of France to the rest of the world have been core leitmotifs in recent French thinking and analysis about the future. As France enters the 21st century, fundamental debates about the French identity as Europe faces globalization and about the American and Asian challenges are shaping policy reorientations for the French strategic and military communities. The fundamental restructuring of the French military associated with the professionalization process is a key factor, shaping the adoption of new technologies and approaches in the next decade. The emphasis upon interallied missions for the restructured French forces pushes the French in a new direction as well. Defense industrial restructuring under the twin pressures of American industrial consolidation and the globalization of high technology industries is a key part of the mosaic of a French approach to the RMA. And driving this change above all is the consolidation of the French economy within a broader Euro zone.

Procurement choices and technology alliances are significantly affected by the emergence of the Euro zone. The effort to frame public policy in defense will increasingly be shaped by the interactions among key industrial and military players in the Euro zone. The inclusion of Britain within this zone in the next parliament would only accelerate this process.

France faces three broad choices in meeting the RMA challenge:

* France can become a key framer of a European RMA. This would require coming to terms with the requirements of inter-allied military operations on both the European and transatlantic levels.

* France could selectively adopt certain RMA technologies and cooperate wherever possible with allies in promoting common projects and actions.

* France could continue to promote the export of legacy systems, to keep its military industrial policy in place, and to emphasize the role of the French military in low-intensity operations.

The General Political Dynamic

European politics are undergoing key changes that have important implications for evolving European security policy at the turn of the decade. Conservatives have been replaced by social democrats in Britain and then France, and now Germany. The commitment to a European Union that might become a European superstate is undercut, and serious domestic debates are underway over the way ahead for the European Union. The step-grade evolution of Cold War to post-Cold War security policy among the core European states is being replaced with a genuine "relook" at the role of defense and security policy within a new social democratic Europe.

Throughout much of the last decade, conservative parties governed France, and the Thatcher revolution dominated British politics. …

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