Part I: Series Introduction
PARIS -- Since the time of Gen. De Gaulle, France's posture towards the United States can be summed up in the familiar expression, "Friend, ally, non-aligned." A source of French pride and American distrust, the formula has haunted France's historically stormy relationship with NATO, and served as the geopolitical expression of l'exception française, France's cultural identity of exceptionalism. It took on added significance since the emergence of the European Union, of which France was and remains a driving force. The need to balance its two principle relationships -- one a strategic alliance with political implications, the other a political project with strategic implications -- while still maintaining its autonomy to act in its own interests when necessary can be found at the heart of the French foreign policy debate. While no one seriously advocates one pole of the spectrum to the exclusion of the other, the eternal question remains the right dose of each. Which explains why President Sarkozy's proposal to formally reintegrate into the NATO command structure has been the subject of such scrutiny, discussion and debate. ...
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