Die verteidigungspolitische Grundsatzrede des französischen Präsidenten Emmanuel Macron am (gestrigen) Freitag liegt jetzt auch in einer (offiziellen) englischen Übersetzung vor – damit für mehr Leser*innen leichter zugänglich und ein Grund, sich das mal zum Nachlesen hinzulegen. Und nein, es geht eben nicht nur, noch nicht mal in erster Linie um die französischen Atomwaffen – sondern um einen weit darüber hinaus gehenden Ansatz.
In seiner Grundsatzrede vor der französischen Militärakademie Ecole de Guerre in Paris stellte der französische Präsident das Thema in den Vordergrund, das er seit Amtsantritt immer wieder angesprochen hatte: Die Bereitschaft wie die Fähigkeit Europas, für seine Verteidigung in einer unsicherer werdenden Welt selbst zu sorgen. Und den Ansatz Frankreichs, zwar seine entsprechenden Entscheidungen selbst zu treffen, dabei aber auch immer das Interesse der anderen Europäer im Blick zu haben.
Zur Force de Frappe, der französischen Atomstreitmacht, sagte Macron im Wesentlichen nichts Neues: die Entscheidung über den Einsatz behalte sich Frankreich selbst vor; eine Einbindung in die Nukleare Planungsgruppe der NATO ist nicht geplant. Frankreich werde aber gerne mit seinen Partnern in einen strategischen Dialog über diese Waffen eintreten.
Bedeutsamer schien in der Rede der Ansatz der Stärkung der – konventionellen – Verteidigung der Europäer – und ihr Engagement für die Rüstungskontrolle. In beidem müsse Europa sein Gewicht bewusst machen und auch ausspielen.
In einer Woche wird der französische Präsident auf der Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz erwartet; im Hinblick darauf hier der ganze Redetext auf Englisch zum Nachlesen – und aus dieser mehr als einstündigen Rede ein paar Ausschnitte:
Next, strategic stability in Europe requires more than the comfort provided by a transatlantic convergence with the United States. Our security thus depends on our ability to involve ourselves more autonomously in our Eastern and Southern neighbourhood; (…)
The second paradigm shift is political and legal – I alluded to it in my introduction. It is the multilateralism crisis and the regression of law in the face of power balances.
The very idea of a multilateral order based on law, whereby the use of force is regulated, commitments are fulfilled and laws create obligations that apply to everyone, is being challenged greatly today.
This dismantling of international norms is part of an assumed competition-based approach whereby only the law of the strongest and power balances count. The most cynical go so far as to hide behind a legal premise and a superficial attachment to the world order to better violate it with total impunity. (…)
These attitudes obviously raise fundamental questions to our democracies. Can we be the only ones to respect the rules of the game, the only ones whose signature on international commitments still has value? Has this become a guilty naivety? (…)
Europe itself is directly exposed to the consequences of this deconstruction. Look at the current situation. Since the early 2000s, cracks started to appear across the whole security architecture in Europe, painstakingly built after 1945 during the Cold War, which was then consciously dismantled brick by brick. Following the impasse of negotiations on conventional arms, the end in 2019 of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was the symbol of this disintegration.
Europeans must collectively realize today that without a legal framework, they could quickly find themselves at risk of another conventional and even nuclear arms race on their soil. They cannot stand by. Turning back into a field of confrontation for non-European nuclear powers would not be acceptable. I won’t accept it. (…)
The paradigm shifts of this world force us to think without taboo about what the wars of the future could be, keeping in mind that at the start of this 21st century, in the words of Raymond Aron, “neither men nor States have said farewell to arms”. (…)
All our action needs to focus on the sole ambition of peace, through strong and effective multilateralism based on law.
I see four pillars for this strategy – promotion of an efficient multilateralism, development of strategic partnerships, search for European autonomy, and national sovereignty – make up a whole, these four elements give our defence strategy its overall coherence and deep meaning. (…)
In this regard, we expect Europe’s major partners to work to safeguard and strengthen international law, not to weaken it. Transparency, trust and reciprocity are the basis of collective security.
Because this strategic stability, which can be achieved by seeking a balance of forces at the lowest possible level, is not guaranteed today. Behind the crisis of the major arms control and disarmament instruments, the security of France and Europe is at stake.
This crucial debate should not take place without Europeans, in a direct and exclusive relationship between the United States, Russia and China. And I know very well that this is the temptation for some, sometimes those that are the most concerned.
For Europeans, multilateralism that is rethought to further collective security and that complies with our founding principles must demand two things, which are not contradictory if we wish to ensure peace. First, promotion of a renewed international arms control agenda and second, a real European investment in defence.
These requirements stem directly from the ambition for sovereignty and freedom of action that I have championed for Europe since I was elected. This ambition is in line with a rebalanced transatlantic relationship, an alliance in which Europeans are credible and efficient partners. Europeans must be able to protect themselves together. They must be able to decide and act on their own when necessary. They must do it while never forgetting what History has taught them: that democracy and the rule of Law without strength do not last long! They must be able to use regularly the mechanisms that ensure their solidarity.
That is why I firmly believe that Europeans must first and foremost define together what their security interests are and sovereignly decide what is good for Europe.
Thus, there can be no defence and security project of European citizens without political vision seeking to advance gradual rebuilding of confidence with Russia. (…)
In that context, Europeans must also propose together an international arms control agenda. The end of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the uncertainties about the future of the New START Treaty and the crisis of the conventional arms control regime in Europe has led to the possibility of a return of pure unhindered military and nuclear competition by 2021, which has not been seen since the end of the 1960s. I’m neither describing an impossible nor a distant future – simply what has been happening under our eyes over the last years. Europeans must once again understand the dynamics of escalation and seek to prevent or impede them with clear and verifiable norms. For law must further our security, by seeking to restrict and curb arms and the most destabilizing behaviours on the part of potential adversaries.
We must have a very clear European position on this issue, which takes into consideration developments of modern weapons, and Russian arms in particular, which could impact our soil, and the interests of Europeans – of all Europeans –, including in northern and central Europe. We have to say it: even while into force over the past years, treaties were no longer protecting some of our partners.
Finally, it is important to rethink disarmament priorities. For too long, Europeans have thought that it was enough to lead by example and that if they disarmed, others would follow. This is not so! Disarmament cannot be an objective in itself: it should first improve international security conditions.
France will rally the support of the most concerned European partners on these issues to lay down the foundations for a joint international strategy that we could put forward in all the fora in which Europe is active. (…)
As regards nuclear disarmament, I call on all States to join us in supporting a simple agenda, under Article VI of the NPT, around four points, which we know:
First, upholding the cornerstone norm that is the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and safeguarding its primary role as it is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020. The NPT is the most universal treaty in the world. It is the only treaty that enables to prevent nuclear war while providing every party with the benefits of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Second, the launch at the Conference on Disarmament of negotiations for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and the safeguarding and universalization of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. We’re committed to it.
Third, the continuation of work on nuclear disarmament verification, that we are leading with Germany, because a disarmament agreement is worth nothing if it cannot be thoroughly verified.
Fourth, the launch of concrete work to reduce strategic risks because unbridled escalation of a local conflict into a major war is one of the most worrying scenarios today that a set of simple and common sense measures could efficiently avert. (…)
For years to come when it comes to defence, Europe will only draw strength from national armed forces. This is certain and bolstering the budgets and capabilities of these national armed forces must be a priority.
However, we have begun, among Europeans, to design tangible tools that could help us develop common awareness, defend shared interests, and act autonomously and in solidarity every time it is necessary. This path involves building an European freedom of action that rounds out and strengthens national sovereignties.
In this regard, it is important to clear up a misunderstanding. The question for Europeans is not whether they should defend themselves with or without Washington, nor to know whether the security of the United States plays out in Asia or on our continent. France naturally participates in the community of allied nations bordering the Atlantic Ocean, with which it shares values, principles and ideals. It is loyal to its commitments in the Atlantic Alliance, which has provided collective security and stability of its members and Europe for the past 70 years. And in this regard, I hear sometimes a lot of comments, but I prefer to look at the facts: France is a credible military actor, which is combating in the field and which has paid the price in blood. France proved it recently in the Sahel, once again. France is a reliable and solidarity-minded ally, including in tough times. It has proven this recently in Syria and Iraq. France is also convinced that Europe’s long-term security involves a strong alliance with the United States. I reiterated this at the NATO Summit in London, and France is experiencing it every day in its operations.
However, our security also inevitably requires that Europeans have a greater capacity for autonomous action. The mere fact that saying it triggers so many reactions and doubts really surprizes me. In the words of General de Gaulle: “No alliance can be considered separately from the effort undertaken by each of its members, on its behalf, at its cost and on the basis of interests which are its own”.
Indeed, the real questions for Europeans are the ones they must ask themselves, rather than the Americans: Why have they diminished their efforts to such an extent since the 1990s? Why aren’t they more willing to make defence one of their budgetary priorities and in doing so, make the necessary sacrifices at a time when risks are accumulating? Why are we having such complicated debates about the amounts to allocate to the European Defence Fund that we just created – because it is a question of secondary importance that others would deal with?
Why are there such big differences between budgets and defence capabilities of European States when the threats we are facing are similar, for the most part? (..)
Let’s face it, and listen to the United States of America, telling us: „Spend more on your security, I may no longer be, over time, your guarantor of last resort, your protector”. Let’s take our responsibilities, finally! (…)
At European level, we need to control our maritime, energy and digital infrastructure. There again, we were much mistaken. We had started to think, in the 1990s and 2000s, that Europe had become a big, comfortable market, theater of influence and all-round predation. We even bailed out on our fellow Europeans, pushing so many countries in the south of our European Union towards investors who seized what we did not know how to buy, and what we were pushing to privatize. Even while these infrastructures were strategic.
A fatal error! For these critical infrastructures, we must find, at the European level, a real policy of sovereignty! (…)
After the Cold War, an idealist vision gave credit to the idea that the world had become less dangerous, which led to a gradual reduction of the portion of our national budget devoted to defence. That was the era of peace dividends.
This choice, this reorganization of budgetary priorities, could seem justified at a time when considerable arsenals had been built up on both sides of the Iron Curtain. But the big mistake was, without any doubt, and in Europe only, to continue to reduce defence funds in the last 20 years and further reduce them during the financial crisis while other regional and major powers maintained or stepped up their defence efforts.
Basically, the last ten years have led to a profound mismatch: the Europeans have continued to reduce, to reduce, to reduce, when others had stopped doing so, even reinvested, accelerating technological change, accelerating their own capacities. (…)
Nuclear deterrence has played a fundamental role in maintaining peace and international security, particularly in Europe. I am firmly convinced that our deterrence strategy maintains all of its stabilizing virtues, a particularly valuable asset in the world which we see before us, one of competition between powers, disinhibited behaviours and the erosion of norms.
The fundamental purpose of France’s nuclear strategy, the doctrinal bases of which I have just set out, is to prevent war.
Our nuclear forces are not directed towards any specific country and France has always refused that nuclear weapons be considered as a battlefield weapons. I hereby reaffirm that France will never engage into a nuclear battle or any forms of graduated response.
Furthermore, our nuclear forces have a deterrent effect in themselves, particularly in Europe. They strengthen the security of Europe through their very existence and they have, in this sense, a truly European dimension.
On that point, our independent decision-making is fully compatible with our unwavering solidarity with our European partners. Our commitment to their security and their defence is the natural expression of our ever-closer solidarity. Let’s be clear: France’s vital interests now have a European dimension.
In this spirit, I would like strategic dialogue to develop with our European partners, which are ready for it, on the role played by France’s nuclear deterrence in our collective security.
European partners which are willing to walk that road can be associated with the exercises of French deterrence forces. This strategic dialogue and these exchanges will naturally contribute to developing a true strategic culture among Europeans.
Our nuclear forces also significantly contribute to the overall strengthening of the Atlantic Alliance’s overall deterrent, alongside the British and American forces. France does not take part in the Alliance’s nuclear planning mechanisms and will not do so in the future. But it will continue to contribute to political-level discussions aiming to strengthen the Alliance’s nuclear culture. (…)
We have no choice but to accept that we live in an imperfect world and to realistically and honestly face the problems which this brings.
I cannot therefore set France the moral objective of disarming our democracies while other powers, or even dictatorships, would be maintaining or developing their nuclear weapons.
For a nuclear-weapon State like France, unilateral nuclear disarmament would be akin to exposing ourselves as well as our partners to violence and blackmail, or depending on others to keep us safe.
I refuse this prospect. And let us not be naïve: even if France, whose arsenal cannot be in any ways compared to that of the United States and Russia, were to give up its weapons, the other nuclear powers would not follow suit.
Similarly, France will not sign any treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. The Treaty will not create any new obligations for France, either for the State or for public or private actors on its territory. (…)
(Archivbild: Macron und US-Präsident Donald Trump vor dem Treffen der Staats- und Regierungschefs der NATO in London im Dezember 2019 – U.S. Department of Defense photo by Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)