Britain Woos France as It Cools to Clinton, Frets over Germany

By Alexander MacLeod, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, November 7, 1994 | Go to article overview

Britain Woos France as It Cools to Clinton, Frets over Germany


Alexander MacLeod, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


BRITAIN is wooing France - and its old adversary across the English Channel may be ready to reciprocate.

Concerned about fraying relations with Washington and united Germany's growing power, British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd is seeking to improve a relationship often marked down the centuries by prickliness and mistrust.

Mr. Hurd wants ultimately to make Britain fully committed to a separate European "pillar" of the NATO alliance as a way for Europeans to take more responsibility for their own defense.

But he is already being sniped at by Euroskeptics in the ruling Conservative Party who say France is not to be trusted and that the United States should remain Britain's principal ally.

Hurd spelled out his thinking to British and French politicians and diplomats in London on Oct. 24. He pointed to the cooperation Britain and France had already established in the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia, and in the Gulf war.

He said he wants to build on this progress by getting French support for a series of cross-Channel military initiatives.

British defense officials say the first move - a plan for a combined air force group to coordinate operations outside the NATO area - will be discussed at a Franco-British summit in Chartres, France, later this month. The plan will likely be adopted, the officials say.

More significant is Hurd's evident support for British participation in a European army within NATO.

At a NATO meeting in January, President Clinton suggested that future US commitment to NATO could depend heavily on Europe's willingness to handle its own security.

NATO leaders interpreted this to mean that the US was now prepared to support the concept of a European pillar.

Since World War II, Britain has shunned any policy undermining its "special relationship" with the US. …

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