President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that France will rejoin the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) 43 years after then-President Charles de Gaulle withdrew from the 26-nation military alliance. Pledging to maintain the independence of France’s nuclear equipped military, Sarkozy believes that rejoining NATO will give France to have more influence in NATO’s decision-making. In a speech to France’s Strategic Research Foundation, Sarkozy said that “[o]ur strategy cannot remain stuck in the past when the conditions of our security have changed radically.”
While France has technically been outside of NATO’s command structure since 1966, it never left the overarching North Atlantic Alliance and has been involved in several NATO missions in the Balkans and in Afghanistan. Sarkozy noted that the practical effect of this has been continued French military involvement without participation in command decisions. This move will allow greater French involvement in NATO’s post-Cold War strategic decisions without sacrificing their much-cherished independence, and may also pave the way for a European defense force.
The move to rejoin NATO is one of many steps President Sarkozy has taken during his administration to mend and strengthen France’s relationship with the United States. Sarkozy plans to formally announce France’s return to NATO on the North Atlantic Alliance’s 60th aniversary celebrations on April 3-4.
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