mardi 8 mai 2012

"La défense française vue des États-Unis", entretien avec Leo G. Michel

Comme noté par Lignes de Défense, Leo G. Michel, Distinguished research fellow à l'Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), a récemment publié une étude intitulée "Cross-curents in French Defense and U.S. Interests". En une trentaine de pages, l'auteur aborde les défis relevés récemment par la défense française et ceux à venir, ainsi que les possibles axes de coopération États-Unis/France. Je remercie Leo G. Michel, parfait francophone, d'avoir bien voulu répondre à mes questions sur ces sujets.

1/ Quelle est la particularité de la France sur le plan militaire vue des USA par rapport à d'autres pays européens ?

France is the only European ally, except for the United Kingdom, that regards its military capabilities, operational performance, and defense industries as vital levers to exert global influence. Several French attributes - among these are their sense of global responsibilities, their commitment to « full spectrum » conventional and nuclear forces, and a willingness to use force and accept combat risks, if necessary - have made them highly valued partners with the United States (and other allies) in complex operations, notably in Afghanistan and Libya. 

Of course, despite a broad convergence of our views on strategic issues - such as the threats posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means (in particular, by Iranian nuclear and missile programs), weakened but still determined terrorist networks, and states and non-state actors able to exploit vulnerabilities in the cyber domain - there are times when our governments may disagree on specific political-military approaches.  But for the most part, these differences have not interfered with close military-to-military cooperation, which by all accounts is better today than in many decades.

2/ Quelles sont les tendances récentes prises par la France, en particulier dans leurs relations vis à vis de l'OTAN et avec quelles conséquences ?

France’s return to full participation in NATO’s military structures in 2009 was certainly welcomed by the United States, and it has proved to be very beneficial both for France and for the Alliance as a whole.  The presence of some 900 French officers and non-commissioned officers throughout the various headquarters and military staffs has had the desired effect of integrating more closely than before French planning and operational skills with those of other allies. In his position as Supreme Commander, Allied Command Transformation, General Abrial is credited with having reinvigorated that organization’s ability to help NATO prepare the doctrine, capabilities, and other dimensions of multinational interoperability necessary for the Alliance to face challenges that are very different from the Cold War era.

But this is a two-way street: France is at the same time improving its ability to work with European and North American militaries and defense structures. Moreover, this has been at relatively modest costs to the French defense ministry and - it should be emphasized - without the dire consequences for French independence and global stature predicted (perhaps mainly for domestic political reasons) by opponents of the move.

3/ Quels sont les enseignements des opérations en Libye, en termes de coopération ou d'indépendance, en particulier avec l'Union Européenne ?

On the positive side, the French military performed very well in Libya, although one should not minimize the contributions of several other allies. In particular, during the last two months of Operational Unified Protector, it is fair to say that French strike aircraft and helicopter attacks made it one of the leading combat contributors.  And broadly speaking, France saw that NATO can respond quickly and effectively in such a contingency - even gaining significant support from Arab countries that some in Paris thought would be “allergic” to any involvement by the Alliance.

On the other hand, the Libyan operation underscored European reliance on U.S. strike assets (including cruise missiles and specialized aircraft), “enablers” (such as aerial tanks, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems, and targeting experts), and—for some allies—transfers of precision-guided munitions to defeat a third-rate adversary.  Some French officials privately have speculated that an exclusively European “coalition of the willing” could have managed the Libyan operation without U.S. participation.  But other French experts have acknowledged that American “enablers” played a critical role in sustaining the pace, intensity, and accuracy of the air campaign.  These “enablers” greatly reduced the inherent risks to European, Canadian, and other partner forces, minimized the number of Libyan civilian casualties, and thus prevented Qadhafi from exploiting cracks in the NATO-led coalition as the conflict dragged on longer than anticipated.

As for the role of “Europe”, it seems to me that the Libyan affair reinforced already existing French concerns about Germany, insofar as its participation in military operations is concerned. I understand why French officials are reluctant to speak openly about this. But from my research, I could only conclude that many French experts inside and outside government are worried that Berlin and Paris are not on the same wavelength when it comes to Europe’s strategic stakes in North Africa and, more generally, on the conduct of so-called “expeditionary” operations.

As for the European Union, I think Admiral Guillaud got it right when he told French Senators last October that “European defense missed the boat in Libya”. Perhaps the EU’s difficulties in coming to grips with the Libyan crisis should not have surprised anyone. EU members that were reluctant to contribute to NATO’s operation carried the same reservations in EU deliberations. One can hope, of course, that the EU will do a better job in using its civilian tools to assist the Libyans to build better and more responsive government institutions and a real civil society.

4/ Comment sont vus depuis Washington les efforts de coopération entre la France et la Grande-Bretagne ?

If France and the United Kingdom succeed in implementing the ambitious goals and programs in the Lancaster House treaties, it can only be to the benefit of Europe and the transatlantic relationship. In my view, the American defense and foreign policy establishment has traveled a long distance from the concerns expressed, for example, in the wake of the French-British St. Malo declaration in December 1998, which in effect launched what is today the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy.  Washington has put aside the “theological” arguments about supposed competition between NATO and the EU. And closer French-British cooperation appears above all to be a pragmatic response to the realization, in Paris and London, that in an era of “defense austerity”, they have no alternative to cooperation if they want to preserve their already constrained ability to act in global affairs, either with the United States, with others, or - if necessary - independently.

Finally, their greater bilateral cooperation will, in my view, actually open new opportunities for trilateral cooperation with the United States. In the near term, I think these opportunities likely will focus on conventional forces; here, our three air forces are leading the way. But I would not exclude, over the longer-term, serious consideration of trilateral cooperation in specific areas involving our respective nuclear forces, without diminishing any nation’s autonomous decision-making in this sensitive area.

Propos recueillis par Stéphane Taillat / En Vérité et F. de St V. / Mars Attaque

Entretien publié conjointement sur l'Alliance Géostratégique

2 commentaires:

James a dit…

Je remercie Leo G. Michel, parfait francophone, d'avoir bien voulu répondre à mes questions sur ces sujets

C'est sympa d'avoir traduit les réponses données par ce parfait francophone en anglais mais sur un blog français je ne voit pas trop l'intérêt... lol

F. de St V. a dit…

Pour avoir toute l'histoire, nous avons traité avec Leo G. Michael en Anglais jusqu'à ce nous sachions qu'il comprenait parfaitement le français donc nous avons alors échangé en cette langue.

Néanmoins, avec les délais que nous lui demandions, il était plus simple pour lui de répondre en anglais.

J'aurais dû rajouter les questions en Anglais, milles excuses