Sarkozy’s Three-Way NATO Bet

France’s return to NATO’s integrated military structure after a 43-year absence earlier this year brought to an end one of the exceptions françaises. It also helped frame the growing debate over whether to develop European defense more effectively or to seriously reform the Atlantic alliance.

PARIS – France’s return to NATO’s integrated military structure after a 43-year absence last year brought to an end one of the exceptions françaises. It also helped frame the growing debate over whether to develop European defense more effectively or to seriously reform the Atlantic alliance.

At first glance, it may seem that France chose NATO at the expense of the ten-year-old European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). But that interpretation takes too pessimistic a view of ESDP’s achievements over the past decade, and is based on a flawed understanding of the relationships between NATO and the European Union.

Indeed, France’s return to NATO is far from a U-turn that reflects disenchantment with ESDP. Rather, it is the product of a 15-year process of rapprochement with NATO – and of the real progress being achieved in European defense.

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