France-U.K. Defense Treaty: Shotgun Wedding or Strategic Union?

It would be easy to dismiss the French-U.K. defense pact signed yesterday as a shotgun wedding between two second-tier military powers. But it still represents a sea change in military relations between the world's only two expeditionary militaries outside of the U.S., NATO and perhaps Russia. The areas of cooperation are also significant, because they go to the heart of both countries' historical military identity -- nuclear deterrence and the ability to project force -- as well as in the areas that will dominate future security postures, such as satellite and UAV drone development, and cyber security.

What's also striking is the degree to which the agreement represents at best a detour and at worst a repudiation of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's commitment to strengthening EU defense. That was the guiding logic of France's return to the NATO command structure, which was supposed to generate enough goodwill and trust in Washington and London to lift the barriers to further EU defense integration. Instead, the immediate effect of the NATO reintegraiton, in combination with European austerity budgets, is to create a French-U.K. defense core at the pivot point of the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Theoretically, if France is able to overcome Britain's Europhobia, that could evolve into what James Rogers calls a "neo-Norman" Euro-core. But given how deep-seated Britain's Europhobia is, it's more likely that Britain is creating the space for France to enter into its own "special relationship" with the U.S., creating a trans-Atlantic triumvirate in security affairs.

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