University of MaltaFaculty of ArtsDepartment of International RelationsAssignment for study unit: Foreign Policy of EuropeanStatesCode: IRL 3145Title: ‘de Gaulle set the tone of French post-WW II foreignpolicy and there has been very little deviation since’.
To what extent do youagree or disagree with this statement. Lecturer: Profs. Joe PirottaName: Matthew MifsudID: 22097GEmail: [email protected]
edu.mtDue date: 11th January 2018Word Count: 2443 wordsStarting off this essay about the French foreignpolicy and how it remains to this same day influenced by Gaullism, one couldn’tnot mention how important De Gaulle was for the French nation as a whole.Throughout his lifetime he served a lengthy career for his nation, served as avery dominant president and was also the dominant figure during the cold warera and remains influential to anyone into politics and to the French foreignpolicy to this same day. 47 years after his death, his legacy is still quitestrong, De Gaulle was France and France was De Gaulle.
De Gaulle was a very strong statesman and was one ofthe crucial players to stabilise the situation of western Europe after the 2ndworld war since it was all in shambles. He wanted France and Germany tonormalise relations between them, and to establish what nowadays is known asthe European union. He was very convinced that France played a very large rolein world affairs thus this ensured that France gained a permanent seat, whichit still occupies today at the United Nations Security Council. Under De`Gaulle`s leadership France made several advances especially in the military,it became the fourth nation in the world to have nuclear power, this ensuredher seat at the UNSC.
With regards to foreign policy, France had up till thenpursued an independent foreign policy which was often in conflict with that ofthe United States. De Gaulle was famous for his political philosophy whichdemanded a government which is dominated by a powerful presidency, a statehaving a major economic role and as mentioned earlier an independent foreignpolicy. I think we all agree that France has a very rich history, French foreignpolicy has always been in any way or another influenced by De Gaulle`spolicies. Indeed, in this past year we saw France holding its presidentialelections which was won by Emmanuel Macron in which all candidates havereferred to De Gaulle`s legacy at some point of their campaign.
In his time as president, Charles de Gaulle knew thatFrance was in no way capable of competing with the United States of America andneither with the Soviet Union, it had been in the war occupied by the Nazissince the very beginning and was unable to be a wide competitor. On the otherhand, de Gaulle wanted France to be independent of the two main global powers.He was a pro nationalist person in his believes, this is why he wanted Franceto be independent. On the other hand he in part distrusted the Americanintentions.
At the time when the cold war was rising the threat of communismfrom outside of Europe was the main issue concerning world leaders. TheAmericans did not want to see Russia lay its hand on Europe and eventually turnEurope into one large soviet state since this would mean a threat to themtherefore the US adopted the policy of containment however, De Gaulle was notat all convinced with the Americans since in his argument the US would not riska nuclear counter attack just to save France and its European neighbours. Hebelieved that if western Europe just relied on the American help and not on anindependent force based in Europe, then Europe would simply just fall in thehands of the Soviets since he saw the American as just bluffs. De Gaulle as I said wanted to be independent of othercountries especially America.
His new strategy was to develop independentcapabilities in the military sector that would be good enough to make theRussians think twice before attacking, and if they attack France would bestrong enough to deter the Russians without going to the United States to seekhelp. This was mainly going to be done through a nuclear force which quoting deGaulle himself, would be able to ‘tear an arm off’. This was all going to bedone since he as I said did not trust the Americans. He saw France as capturedbetween the Americans and the soviets, he saw that his country`s fate wasentirely in the hands of the two major superpowers, which however none of themhad his trust. He knew that there had to be another force limiting theabilities of the superpowers.
A security alliance together with an economic onewas viewed by all of Europe especially by France. It seemed to be the way tostop the violence which had been in Europe for a long time. Furthermore, deGaulle did in fact like the idea of an economic union and also the idea of afree defence capability but on the other hand he dislike any option that wouldtake away France’s sovereignty. This is why he objected NATO, because hethought that it was a factor which limited quite strongly his country`ssovereignty. He was not against it completely therefore he did not leaveimmediately, but he did not like the idea that in a case of emergency theFrench troops were controlled by a non-French leader.
With regards to foreign policy, the presidentssucceeding him accepted his views that pursued the self-interests of France,however they did not go on with his ultra-sovereign views. A strategy wascreated that seemed to progress from his own legacy and ideology. De Gaulleknew that France alone was nothing and that it had to be bound with othercountries especially on the European continent. In particular with Germany. Ifthere was to be a sort of union it had to be both economic and militarily sincethis was all happening during the cold war, however with the fall of the berlinwall and the Soviet Union, the need to set up a military union seemed todissolve because the threat which was posed by the soviets was calmed down.
Moreover, the presidents of France since then be it Chirac or Sarkozy soughtthat de Gaulle’s vision be perceived only by economic relations. When Hollandewent to Germany this is why he went. We would agree that both France andGermany have different economies and economic needs.
Hollande was a socialist,making him the enemy of De Gaulle but still, just like most presidents he didnot make a strategy of his own rather he shaped it on an existing one thus hewas slowly playing de Gaulle’s game in international relations.Gaullism could be said to be the moulding factor whichhas shaped France’s image after the second world war. After de Gaulle wassucceeded by his successor Georges Pompidou, the latter was a consolidatedGaullist in his ideology during his presidency term from 1969 up to 1974. In myopinion up to this day France’s international relations remain in some waysinfluenced by and independent nuclear capability and also by a foreign policywhich is in part influenced by De Gaulle`s ideologies even tough from 1980 topresent there have been several years were there was a change from Gaullism. Inthe last part of the last century during the 80s and the 90s, when the cold warwas nearing its end and the Soviet Union nearing its collapse, a number ofpoliticians more than once honoured his legacy in foreign policy. 2 of suchpoliticians include Philippe Seguin and Charles Pasqua representing both wingsof Gaullism. Whilst segues emphasized the social side of Gaullism were thestate is placed as the main guarantor of health and rights, Pasqua stressed theauthoritarian side of Gaullism were the start is responsible for socialstability. Later, a few years ago back in 2003 the foreign minister at thattime spoke at the United Nations were he publicly declared the American warurgency as wrong which George W.
Bush was pushing for. This therefore wasanother episode where Gaullism was taking place since France was showing howindependent it was and that it was not afraid of criticising its allies, on thecontrary it was eager and willing to criticise.Later on, in time much closer to us, when NicholasSarkozy became President of the French state the definition of Gaullism becamequite trickier to define. I think that I might be right to say that he, Sarkozydid show that he is aware of De Gaulle’s ideology and he was indeed to someextent attached to him but still his term as president showed symptoms ofclinging to power. To quote Jean Pierre Chevenement he said that de Gaulle was”equal to his statue,” Sarkozy is not “for the simple reason that he doesn’thave a statue and has difficulty being equal to his duties.” Sarkozy`sideology was also different to de Gaulle’s especially in 2009. 43 years before2009 de Gaulle, who was then the president of France decided and shockedeveryone especially the united states when he announced that, he waswithdrawing France out of NATO in 1966, with the argument that he wanted tokeep France independent when it comes to world affairs and to preserve Frenchsovereignty especially since he did not like the idea of French troops beingcommanded by a foreigner. However, 43 years after this dramatic episode,Nicholas Sarkozy did the ultimate opposite when he announced that France wantedto return into NATO as a fully pledged member, putting the Gaullist idea to theside.
In Sarkozy’s words, the re-entrance of France into American led NATO,does not remove the independence of France’s military forces, on the other handhe argued that, such decision will only pave the way for France to have a muchgreater say on NATO missions. I cannot imagine what Charles de Gaulle’sreaction would have been when listening to Sarkozy say that, “Our strategy cannot remain stuck inthe past when the conditions of our security have changed radically.” With this decision Sarkozy marked anothermilestone, since by this union he tried to strengthen the relations betweenFrance and America after a long time of mistrust especially during de Gaulle’speriod. He, (Sarkozy) even declared himself to be a friend of Washington. Thisstep was totally the opposite of what de Gaulle had done during his presidencywhen he not only withdrew France from NATO but also ordered, the thousands ofUS troops stationed in France and at the Paris NATO headquarters to withdrawl.
Moreover, even though France had been absent from NATO, its forces which areconsidered some of the best in Europe, have contributed quite largely in majorNATO missions, for example in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and in fact since Sarkozywas president, they were even entrusted with certain combat missions. This iswhat led Sarkozy to argue that France had no reason to remain out of NATO,since it was still playing a large role. In my opinion staying out of NATO butparticipating in missions was only leaving out France from being a decisionmaker, and in fact Sarkozy had thought that the return would actually result ina major development of the European defence force programme which had alreadybeen a goal of French diplomacy. Sarkozy has been described by some as being ananti-Gaullist in fact when his plans became publicised, he was highlycriticised and was even attacked by the opposition and the socialists but moststrongly by the Gaullists, but he was decisive of his plans and took hisdecisions to be final. Francois Hollande`s foreign policy also followed theforeign policy of his predecessors since de Gaulle. All the presidents had 2main goals which were featured more prominently in their policies namely, toguarantee a strategic alliance and to guarantee for France to be the Europeanleader. Moreover, Francois Hollande had followed Sarkozy in his foreign policyeven though he came from another wing of politics. His foreign policy was verymuch influenced by the ongoing trouble and war in Syria, which has beenconsidered as the centre of instability which is creating the high migrantinflux from the Middle East into the Mediterranean.
Hollande was in favour ofthe 2013 air strikes against the Syrian regime after the latter had used itsarsenal of chemical weapons against its own un-armed civilians. His so calledSyrian policy has been built upon 3 parameters namely, French absence from anymilitary operation, he also agreed that any political solution to discuss a wayto stop the conflict of Syria could not include Bashar al Assad himself andfinally that Tehran is not considered as a contributor to such politicalsolutions since the government of Iran and its military supported Al-Assad inhis conflict therefore neither Bashar al Assad nor Iran were to be present atany meeting regarding any political solution to the conflict. However, he stilldid not rule out that Iran could in fact contribute to a political solutionfollowing the Nuclear agreement with the P5. On the whole Hollande’s policies werewidely met with consent from all political sectors of France.Later on, in 2017 France had to hold its presidentialelections, which were basically based on economics and unemployment. Theelection was eventually won by Emmanuel Macron. Macron is relatively new tothis and he had little or relatively no experience in foreign policy, and hisonly experience has been as a brief economic minister for france in 2014 till2016.
In fact, he based himself on the foreign policy of De Gaulle andMitterrand and also kept a large number of ministers from the recent governmentof Hollande in his government. An issue which many French see as a burden formacron is considered as an economic opportunity, I’m referring to the issue ofmigrants in France. Macrons France is also open for trade and investments fromits European partners especially since he comes from the economic sector.Macron is very similar to de Gaulle in some instances such as his willingnessto improve and encourage the relationship that France has with neighbouringcountry, Germany. Moreover, his foreign policy is very much based on securingthe defensive system of Europe, encouraging the country`s relationship withNATO and Moscow and also French military operations abroad.To conclude this essay I think that, yes, thestatement made in the title is indeed true. The Great general Charles De Gaullehas indeed paved the way of French foreign policy since the presidentssucceeding him have all followed his ideology in some way or another or wereaffected in some way by his arguments.
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