France getting closer to the Anglo-American axis: Lancaster House treaties deepen. Franco-German axis under strain

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The Lancaster House treaties are a military alliance, outside of the EU, between the United Kingdom, and the French Republic. In it, security and defense cooperation is expanded. The treaties have two texts, the first document lays down the terms of the treaty [1], and the second details the nuclear cooperation between the two parts [2]. In particular, it is about “maximising their capacities through coordinating development, acquisition, deployment and maintenance of a range of capabilities, facilities, equipment, materials and [military] services.” Interestingly enough, the treaty establishes the deployment of forces “into theatres in which both Parties have agreed to be engaged,” the treaty was sealed in 2010, just one year before the NATO campaign to stabilize Libya. The two main actors of the operation were, conspicuously enough, France (under Operation Harmattan) and Britain (under Operation Ellamy), both actors under the American Operation Odyssey Dawn. In the operation, the Lancaster House treaties unfolded under the NATO umbrella, and with one year gap between the signing and the application. This treaty, (a XXI century Entente Cordiale) is signed between a EU country, and a country leaving the EU. But above all, the nature of the treaty is bilateral, and it has not any formal tie to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union, or the European Defense Agency (EDA).

Recently, the Lancaster House Treaties have been strengthened. The stage was the 35th United Kingdom-France Summit, held at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, 18 January 2018. There are worthwhile bits of the communiqué [3], to highlight for instance:

“As the European countries who are permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as members of the G7, G20 and NATO, we work closely in defence of the rules based international system.”

Not one mention of the EU. On the contrary, the communiqué warns that even though “United Kingdom prepares to leave the EU, the United Kingdom is not leaving Europe. A strong and deep relationship between the United Kingdom and France is in both of our interests,” thus establishing the House of Lancaster Treaties as the bedrock for the bilateral relations of the two countries. From the communiqué, the most interesting part lies in the second point, it is established there, that 2018 (the year of the 35th summit) marks 100 years since the First World War, were troops of both countries fought “in defence of our shared belief in freedom and resistance against aggression.” Though what it says is true, it draws attention to the designation of First World War Germany as an “aggressor.” In diplomatic parlance, this is a declaration of intentions. We are, thus, talking about an enhanced Entente Cordiale of the 21st Century.

When comparing the French and British strategies, it is worth examining the German defense policy. Its main foreign policy Think Tank, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (or Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, SWP) has published a report, recommending Berlin to militarily lead NATO and the EU[4].

“In the long-term, the Bundeswehr could well become Europe’s indispensable army”

“This will require the future German government to accept an unaccustomed politico-military leadership role. It will also be necessary to increase defence spending for the long term.”

Both paragraphs sum up the great divide in terms of hard power between Germany and France. The French Republic is forming a military alliance with a power that is leaving the EU, and Germany aims to become a military leader in Europe. The defense policy tends to guide politics and diplomacy. We will see if, in this case, this will not result in the disintegration of the EU.

Lastly, Macron is fraternizing with the controversial President Trump, the very president who accuses Germany of being a currency manipulator and of taking advantage of the United States. In an interview at the BBC, Macron said that he has a great relation with President Trump. Moreover, Trump “loved the Bastille day parade,” and the first official state visit to the White House will be that of President Macron on 24th of April. What is going to be the main topic of discussion? We could be wrong, but it will probably be commerce.

France embodies a top foundation for the stability of the European Union. In fact, its alliance with Germany, the so-called Franco-German axis, constitutes the bedrock of the governance and economy of the EU. But the defense and security alliance with the United Kingdom, and the cozy relation with President Trump, France is farther from the Franco-German axis, and closer to the Atlantic option. With an almost certain economic crisis looming to the old continent, we will see which is the future of the European Oasis.

Pol Serrano is a journalist, with an MA in Politics and International Relations from the University of Kent. He specializes in economics and security.

 

[1] “Treaty between the UK and the French Republic for Defence and Security Co-operation”

[2] “Treaty between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the French Republic relating to Joint Radiographic/Hydrodynamics Facilities”

[3] “UNITED KINGDOM-FRANCE SUMMIT COMMUNIQUE Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, 18 January 2018”

[4] Ambitious Framework Nation: Germany in NATO Bundeswehr Capability Planning and the “Framework Nations Concept” Rainer L. Glatz and Martin Zapfe

 

 

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