University of Malta
Faculty of Arts
Department of International Relations
Assignment for study unit: Foreign Policy of European
Code: IRL 3145
Title: ‘de Gaulle set the tone of French post-WW II foreign
policy and there has been very little deviation since’. To what extent do you
agree or disagree with this statement.
Lecturer: Profs. Joe Pirotta
Name: Matthew Mifsud
Email: [email protected]
Due date: 11th January 2018
Word Count: 2443 words
Starting off this essay about the French foreign
policy and how it remains to this same day influenced by Gaullism, one couldn’t
not 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 a
very dominant president and was also the dominant figure during the cold war
era and remains influential to anyone into politics and to the French foreign
policy to this same day. 47 years after his death, his legacy is still quite
strong, De Gaulle was France and France was De Gaulle.
De Gaulle was a very strong statesman and was one of
the crucial players to stabilise the situation of western Europe after the 2nd
world war since it was all in shambles. He wanted France and Germany to
normalise relations between them, and to establish what nowadays is known as
the European union. He was very convinced that France played a very large role
in world affairs thus this ensured that France gained a permanent seat, which
it 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 ensured
her seat at the UNSC. With regards to foreign policy, France had up till then
pursued an independent foreign policy which was often in conflict with that of
the United States. De Gaulle was famous for his political philosophy which
demanded a government which is dominated by a powerful presidency, a state
having a major economic role and as mentioned earlier an independent foreign
policy. I think we all agree that France has a very rich history, French foreign
policy has always been in any way or another influenced by De Gaulle`s
policies. Indeed, in this past year we saw France holding its presidential
elections which was won by Emmanuel Macron in which all candidates have
referred to De Gaulle`s legacy at some point of their campaign.
In his time as president, Charles de Gaulle knew that
France was in no way capable of competing with the United States of America and
neither with the Soviet Union, it had been in the war occupied by the Nazis
since the very beginning and was unable to be a wide competitor. On the other
hand, 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 France
to be independent. On the other hand he in part distrusted the American
intentions. At the time when the cold war was rising the threat of communism
from outside of Europe was the main issue concerning world leaders. The
Americans did not want to see Russia lay its hand on Europe and eventually turn
Europe into one large soviet state since this would mean a threat to them
therefore the US adopted the policy of containment however, De Gaulle was not
at all convinced with the Americans since in his argument the US would not risk
a nuclear counter attack just to save France and its European neighbours. He
believed that if western Europe just relied on the American help and not on an
independent force based in Europe, then Europe would simply just fall in the
hands of the Soviets since he saw the American as just bluffs.
De Gaulle as I said wanted to be independent of other
countries especially America. His new strategy was to develop independent
capabilities in the military sector that would be good enough to make the
Russians think twice before attacking, and if they attack France would be
strong enough to deter the Russians without going to the United States to seek
help. This was mainly going to be done through a nuclear force which quoting de
Gaulle himself, would be able to ‘tear an arm off’. This was all going to be
done since he as I said did not trust the Americans. He saw France as captured
between the Americans and the soviets, he saw that his country`s fate was
entirely in the hands of the two major superpowers, which however none of them
had his trust. He knew that there had to be another force limiting the
abilities of the superpowers. A security alliance together with an economic one
was viewed by all of Europe especially by France. It seemed to be the way to
stop the violence which had been in Europe for a long time. Furthermore, de
Gaulle did in fact like the idea of an economic union and also the idea of a
free defence capability but on the other hand he dislike any option that would
take away France’s sovereignty. This is why he objected NATO, because he
thought that it was a factor which limited quite strongly his country`s
sovereignty. He was not against it completely therefore he did not leave
immediately, but he did not like the idea that in a case of emergency the
French troops were controlled by a non-French leader.
With regards to foreign policy, the presidents
succeeding him accepted his views that pursued the self-interests of France,
however they did not go on with his ultra-sovereign views. A strategy was
created that seemed to progress from his own legacy and ideology. De Gaulle
knew that France alone was nothing and that it had to be bound with other
countries especially on the European continent. In particular with Germany. If
there was to be a sort of union it had to be both economic and militarily since
this was all happening during the cold war, however with the fall of the berlin
wall and the Soviet Union, the need to set up a military union seemed to
dissolve because the threat which was posed by the soviets was calmed down.
Moreover, the presidents of France since then be it Chirac or Sarkozy sought
that de Gaulle’s vision be perceived only by economic relations. When Hollande
went to Germany this is why he went. We would agree that both France and
Germany have different economies and economic needs. Hollande was a socialist,
making him the enemy of De Gaulle but still, just like most presidents he did
not make a strategy of his own rather he shaped it on an existing one thus he
was slowly playing de Gaulle’s game in international relations.
Gaullism could be said to be the moulding factor which
has shaped France’s image after the second world war. After de Gaulle was
succeeded by his successor Georges Pompidou, the latter was a consolidated
Gaullist in his ideology during his presidency term from 1969 up to 1974. In my
opinion up to this day France’s international relations remain in some ways
influenced by and independent nuclear capability and also by a foreign policy
which is in part influenced by De Gaulle`s ideologies even tough from 1980 to
present there have been several years were there was a change from Gaullism. In
the last part of the last century during the 80s and the 90s, when the cold war
was nearing its end and the Soviet Union nearing its collapse, a number of
politicians more than once honoured his legacy in foreign policy. 2 of such
politicians include Philippe Seguin and Charles Pasqua representing both wings
of Gaullism. Whilst segues emphasized the social side of Gaullism were the
state is placed as the main guarantor of health and rights, Pasqua stressed the
authoritarian side of Gaullism were the start is responsible for social
stability. Later, a few years ago back in 2003 the foreign minister at that
time spoke at the United Nations were he publicly declared the American war
urgency as wrong which George W. Bush was pushing for. This therefore was
another episode where Gaullism was taking place since France was showing how
independent it was and that it was not afraid of criticising its allies, on the
contrary it was eager and willing to criticise.
Later on, in time much closer to us, when Nicholas
Sarkozy became President of the French state the definition of Gaullism became
quite trickier to define. I think that I might be right to say that he, Sarkozy
did show that he is aware of De Gaulle’s ideology and he was indeed to some
extent attached to him but still his term as president showed symptoms of
clinging 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’t
have a statue and has difficulty being equal to his duties.” Sarkozy`s
ideology was also different to de Gaulle’s especially in 2009. 43 years before
2009 de Gaulle, who was then the president of France decided and shocked
everyone especially the united states when he announced that, he was
withdrawing France out of NATO in 1966, with the argument that he wanted to
keep France independent when it comes to world affairs and to preserve French
sovereignty especially since he did not like the idea of French troops being
commanded by a foreigner. However, 43 years after this dramatic episode,
Nicholas Sarkozy did the ultimate opposite when he announced that France wanted
to return into NATO as a fully pledged member, putting the Gaullist idea to the
side. 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 hand
he argued that, such decision will only pave the way for France to have a much
greater say on NATO missions. I cannot imagine what Charles de Gaulle’s
reaction would have been when listening to Sarkozy say that, “Our strategy cannot remain stuck in
the past when the conditions of our security have changed radically.” With this decision Sarkozy marked another
milestone, since by this union he tried to strengthen the relations between
France and America after a long time of mistrust especially during de Gaulle’s
period. He, (Sarkozy) even declared himself to be a friend of Washington. This
step was totally the opposite of what de Gaulle had done during his presidency
when he not only withdrew France from NATO but also ordered, the thousands of
US troops stationed in France and at the Paris NATO headquarters to withdrawl.
Moreover, even though France had been absent from NATO, its forces which are
considered some of the best in Europe, have contributed quite largely in major
NATO missions, for example in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and in fact since Sarkozy
was president, they were even entrusted with certain combat missions. This is
what 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 but
participating in missions was only leaving out France from being a decision
maker, and in fact Sarkozy had thought that the return would actually result in
a major development of the European defence force programme which had already
been a goal of French diplomacy. Sarkozy has been described by some as being an
anti-Gaullist in fact when his plans became publicised, he was highly
criticised and was even attacked by the opposition and the socialists but most
strongly by the Gaullists, but he was decisive of his plans and took his
decisions to be final.
Francois Hollande`s foreign policy also followed the
foreign policy of his predecessors since de Gaulle. All the presidents had 2
main goals which were featured more prominently in their policies namely, to
guarantee a strategic alliance and to guarantee for France to be the European
leader. Moreover, Francois Hollande had followed Sarkozy in his foreign policy
even though he came from another wing of politics. His foreign policy was very
much influenced by the ongoing trouble and war in Syria, which has been
considered as the centre of instability which is creating the high migrant
influx from the Middle East into the Mediterranean. Hollande was in favour of
the 2013 air strikes against the Syrian regime after the latter had used its
arsenal of chemical weapons against its own un-armed civilians. His so called
Syrian policy has been built upon 3 parameters namely, French absence from any
military operation, he also agreed that any political solution to discuss a way
to stop the conflict of Syria could not include Bashar al Assad himself and
finally that Tehran is not considered as a contributor to such political
solutions since the government of Iran and its military supported Al-Assad in
his conflict therefore neither Bashar al Assad nor Iran were to be present at
any meeting regarding any political solution to the conflict. However, he still
did not rule out that Iran could in fact contribute to a political solution
following the Nuclear agreement with the P5. On the whole Hollande’s policies were
widely met with consent from all political sectors of France.
Later on, in 2017 France had to hold its presidential
elections, which were basically based on economics and unemployment. The
election was eventually won by Emmanuel Macron. Macron is relatively new to
this and he had little or relatively no experience in foreign policy, and his
only experience has been as a brief economic minister for france in 2014 till
2016. In fact, he based himself on the foreign policy of De Gaulle and
Mitterrand and also kept a large number of ministers from the recent government
of Hollande in his government. An issue which many French see as a burden for
macron is considered as an economic opportunity, I’m referring to the issue of
migrants in France. Macrons France is also open for trade and investments from
its European partners especially since he comes from the economic sector.
Macron is very similar to de Gaulle in some instances such as his willingness
to improve and encourage the relationship that France has with neighbouring
country, Germany. Moreover, his foreign policy is very much based on securing
the defensive system of Europe, encouraging the country`s relationship with
NATO and Moscow and also French military operations abroad.
To conclude this essay I think that, yes, the
statement made in the title is indeed true. The Great general Charles De Gaulle
has indeed paved the way of French foreign policy since the presidents
succeeding him have all followed his ideology in some way or another or were
affected in some way by his arguments. Moreover yes, as de Gaulle led France
during the post war period his successors have guaranteed what he was all
about, a great France.
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