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Sarkozy unveils major defence shakeup

Latest update : 2008-06-17

French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented a new security strategy designed to take on “the immediate threat” of terrorism via increased military cooperation with NATO and the EU. But it’s a plan that will cost about 54,000 defence jobs.

Read Robert Parsons’ analysis: “Sarkozy pulls no punches”


French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented his long-awaited new military and security strategy Tuesday, calling for a revamping of France’s security strategy, one that is poised to take on the new challenges posed by global terrorism in a post-Cold War world.


“Today, the immediate threat is that of a terrorist attack,” said Sarkozy in a speech delivered to about 3,000 senior officers in Paris. “Thanks to the effectiveness of our security forces, France has not experienced (such an attack) in the past few years. But the threat exists, it’s real, and we know that it can take a new form tomorrow, even more serious, with radiological, chemical and biological means.”

Defence is one of the few sectors the French president has not yet reformed since he came to power in 2007 and the new security strategy, called the white paper, comes after months of internal debates. Written by a panel of 35 experts, the white paper details France’s military strategy for the next 15 years.

The last report, released 14 years ago, was based on the perceived military threats shortly after the Cold War. But the Sept. 11 attacks – as well as the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid – have changed the focus from conventional warfare to a range of security threats from simultaneous suicide bombings to bioterrorism and cyberwarfare.

With the threat of major conflicts in Europe downgraded, the white paper pushes for greater cooperation with NATO and for a joint European defence strategy.

In his address, delivered days after Ireland rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a national referendum, Sarkozy emphasized the need for European military cooperation. “Europe, whatever the institutional risks, has overcome its divisions, its historical confrontations, to create a unique model of cooperation between nations,” he said.

Sarkozy also confirmed that France will soon rejoin NATO's military command that it left in 1966 but said its nuclear forces would remain under strict national control.

"We can renew our relations with NATO without fearing for our independence and without the risk of being unwillingly dragged into a war," he said.

Announcing the creation of a new post of an intelligence tsar who will coordinate France’s intelligence work, currently split between five agencies, Sarkozy said the new intelligence chief “will direct the services and will ensure the coherence of their action" he said referring to the intelligence agencies.

Increased intelligence spending – at the cost of military jobs

The white paper places greater emphasis on intelligence - especially satellite intelligence - at the cost of sensitive job cuts in the French Army, the largest army of the European Union.

“We cannot do everything at the same time,” said Sarkozy. “The white paper therefore traces the way to release the financial margins that we need and that we don’t have.”

Over the next six or seven years, an estimated 54,000 defense jobs will be cut, paring down the current staffing level of 320,000.

Budgetary allocations for space-based early warning systems are to be doubled, at 700 million euros, with the creation of a new agency to combat the threat of cyberattacks.

Date created : 2008-06-17