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France - Military Doctrine

The French concept of defence, as defined in the ordinance of 7 January 1959, is a comprehensive one, setting three goals for the country's defence.

  • To defend France's vital interests, which are defined by the President of the Republic and include its people, its territory and the freedom to exercise its sovereignty. At the same time, France must also protect its strategic interests at the international level and contribute to conflict prevention, keeping and restoring peace, as well as ensuring respect for international law and democratic values in the world. Its strategic interests lie in keeping the peace in Europe and the adjacent areas, such as the Mediterranean and the Middle East and in areas that are critical for its economy and the freedom of trade.
  • To work for European integration and stability in Europe. For France to keep its place in the world, it will need to influence European integration and the coming changes in Europe. Its European choice stems from strategic and economic considerations. Furthermore, although France is still free to determine its security requirements and to choose which resources it deploys, it recognises that the Atlantic Alliance is a critical link between Europeans and Americans, even for peace-keeping missions carried out on behalf of the UN or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The challenge is to renew the capabilities of NATO, to strike a better balance of responsibilities between the United States and Europe and to put these capabilities to work for peacekeeping missions and crisis management.
  • To implement a comprehensive defence concept, which is not limited to military concerns. Indeed, a country's security and stability depend on its social organisation, education system and social cohesion as well as its armed forces and police. This means that the concept of defence is intimately linked to the concept of the nation. For example, emergency services protect the population, maintain public order and thereby ensure the continuity of the State. The emergency services play a preventive and protective role with regard to natural and man-made risks, and ensure the security of critical infrastructures and networks. They also ensure proper allocation of resources during crises.
Changes in the strategic environment throughout the 1990s mean that France now has a strategic buffer to the east that can be measured in thousands of kilometers. This is the first time in its history that it has been in this situation. However, contrary to certain expectations and hopes, crises and conflicts still occur around the world, according to rationales and under circumstances where the parties to them are often new and unexpected. This has fragmented and multiplied the threats from government and non-government players. The attacks on 11 September 2001 marked the emergence of mass terrorism that gave rise to a new type of conflict, with no clearly identified battlegrounds or armies, where the enemy, which is willing to use weapons of mass destruction, clearly targets the general population. France is a developed society that is open and that has a high level of technological achievement. This makes it particularly vulnerable to new types of threats. Its commitments to a set of political partnerships, common interests and alliances make it a potential target.

France has adapted its strategy to these two changes in the international environment with the primary policy objective of defending the security of the French and their interests in France and outside France, since some 1.5 million French citizens live in other countries.

Deterrence is based on the concept of non-use and requires maintaining diversified resources to affirm France's credibility when faced with changing threats. France must also be able to contribute to protecting Europe's security in consideration of the growing solidarity between the countries in the European Union. France plays an active role in the implementation of regional stabilisation instruments, such as the CFE Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty on confidence-building and security measures, and the Dayton Accords. It also participates in initiatives to control weapons as part of the OSCE, including the fight against the spread of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and the French-Dutch initiative on munitions stockpiles. Conventional forces now play a full strategic role and are no longer considered to be merely an adjunct to the nuclear deterrent.

Prevention is the first step in the implementation of the defence strategy. This means that intelligence should provide France with the ability to anticipate events and give it an independent capability to assess the situation. France's defence diplomacy also contributes to prevention by developing defence and security relations with foreign partners through strategic dialogue, information sharing, assistance and military cooperation.

Projection and action are the basis of the French armed forces model. The keys are the capability to deploy forces in Europe and outside Europe, and the ability to provide rapid deployment and long-term support for joint forces that can rapidly assert their superiority in a theatre of operation.

Protection of the population, institutions and France's territory are ongoing requirements, defence of France's national territory must be ensured under all circumstances. This means being capable of resisting blackmail, retaliation or attacks against France's territory or population at all times, or limiting the impact of an asymmetric attack. As a direct result of the free movement of people and goods throughout the European Union, the protection of the national territory increasingly involves closer cooperation with France's neighbours and allies.

France's current concerns about domestic security - a central theme of elections in 2002 - focus mainly on common crime and antisocial behavior, organized crime, and terrorism, especially Islamist terrorism. Since late 2005, the prospect of urban unrest also has become a matter of concern. At that time, widespread rioting erupted in France's city outskirts and reached a scale not seen in France since the student-worker riots of 1968. In the several weeks of rioting in 2005, the children of mainly North African immigrants burned some 10,000 cars and community centers and schools in 300 urban areas-areas where unemployment is rampant among young males. The property destruction was extensive and led to nearly 3,000 arrests and an official state of emergency lasting until January 2006.

These riots aroused more consternation than the usual politically charged actions arising out of France's tradition of wildcat strikes, street demonstrations, and mass mobilization. Many interpreted the 2005 riots as evidence of the failure of French policies on immigration and integration, particularly of Muslims. A few even saw the riots as fueled by religion and hostile teachings in mosques. Others dismissed any causal connection to religion, blaming the mayhem simply on small numbers of gang leaders competing in destruction and exploiting the social disaffection of other underclass youth.

Whatever the interpretation, the riots ensured that law and order and immigration were major themes in the electoral campaigns of 2007, recalling the dominance of security concerns in the 2002 presidential election, when the far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen polled a startling 17 percent in the first round of voting. In 2007 Nicolas Sarkozy, a relative hard-liner on law and order and immigration, garnered votes previously given to Le Pen, whose vote total fell to 10 percent.

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