French defence shakeup: more for less?
It should all be music to the ears of top military brass in Brussels, Washington and at the United Nations, who have long been struggling to fill gaps in under-resourced peacekeeping missions from Africa to Afghanistan.
Although the total number of mission-fit French forces will fall to 30,000 from 50,000 under the plans, the idea is that they will be better equipped, more mobile and better able to respond to everything from terrorism to cyber-attacks.
That is what defence wonks mean when they talk about “transformation” of the world’s large but mostly lumbering standing armies built up during the Cold War.
Paris promises a win-win deal for NATO and the EU. Not only will it play a bigger role in the transatlantic alliance whose military structures it quit four decades ago, but it also sees scope for more pooling of Europe’s scarce defence resources.
Too good to be true? Perhaps.
Who gets priority if both NATO and the EU come knocking on France’s door for soldiers? Will the British agree to a French call for the EU to have its own military planning cell?
It is all very well for Sarkozy to revive an nine-year-old dream of the EU to have a 60,000-strong reaction force on call for crises around the world. But that came to nought the first time because nations didn’t cough up the troops — who is to say they will be any keener to do so this time around. Britain’s The Times newspaper has its doubts.
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