Sunday, September 28, 2003
Pocket Battleships

An extremely good article from Mr Lindley-French of the Geneva Center for Security Policy, who encapsulates Anglo-French rivalry in a nutshell. It was originally printed in the Wall Street Journal and reproduced on Strategy Page.

The best quotes follow:

The post-Cold War world has been kind to Europe's two old imperial powers. While the Cold War consigned them to the margins of history, Britain today has the world's fourth-largest economy and the second-most capable military, whereas France has the fifth-largest economy and for all intents and purposes the third-most capable military. Given their respective world views and an ability to influence events that they have not enjoyed since the end of World War II, they have emerged as pocket superpowers, competitors as much as partners.

Lindley-French argues that the France's long-term plan to lead Europe as a rival to the superpower is balanced by Britain's post-war Atlanticism.

France wants to push Europe in a different direction, and is now determined to undermine the political utility of British military power within Europe by trying to marginalize it.

The French realise that they have to use British insecurities to secure their purpose since their political landscape will eventually be undermined by the military capabilities of Britain and its technological links with the United States.

Britain is profoundly unsure of the long-term commitment of an ever more mighty America to a special relationship that seems far more special in London than in Washington.

The game is afoot.

Those in London and Washington who have dismissed France's chocolate summitry should think again. European defense is not about headquarters and capabilities but politics -- France's clever strategy is founded upon that basic truism. In fact, France stands the best chance of winning this battle before real military capabilities, a game in Europe that only the British can win, start to shape policy.

Sooner or later the sun will finally set on Britain and France, but until then they will continue in their own very distinct ways to remain above the European fray and yet be architects of it. Europeans and yet not Europeans. EU member-states and yet more than members. Partners and yet competitors. Like pocket battleships they will continue to pick only the battles they can win until one day the forces ranged against them will eventually force them together. That day is still a long time coming.

I say again. This is a must-read.

(28th September 2003, 00.26)


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