French Defense Minister Hervé Morin on France, NATO and ‘New’ Security Threats

French Defense Minister Hervé Morin on France, NATO and ‘New’ Security Threats

Recent weeks have seen intense interest displayed in the English-language media to signs of a potential reorientation of French foreign policy under new President Nicolas Sarkozy. Following the publication earlier this month of former French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine's report to the President on France and "Globalization" -- which, as the extensive extracts published on World Politics Review show, was largely misinterpreted by the media as a plea for change -- some seemingly improvised remarks by current French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner gave renewed impetus to such discussions. During an hour-long interview on the French talk show "Grand Jury" on Sept. 16, Kouchner appeared momentarily to suggest that France was preparing for a possible war with Iran in the event that Iran did not suspend its program of uranium enrichment. Between the publication of the Védrine Report and Kouchner's remarks, however, an arguably more weighty programmatic statement by new French Defense Minister Hervé Morin went largely unnoticed outside of France.

In his Sept. 11 speech to France's summer "Defense University," attended by many of the key decision-makers involved in formulating French defense policy, Morin criticized French behavior in NATO in remarkably vivid language, observing that "we are too often those [in NATO] who quibble and vacillate." Morin then went on to envision precisely that modification of French policy that Védrine in his report had denounced as the greatest "temptation" threatening French independence: namely, France's reintegration into NATO's military command structures, which it departed in 1966. Outlining the security threats to which French defense policy should be prepared to respond, moreover, Morin -- five days before Kouchner's now famous remarks -- clearly pointed to the potential of war with Iran as an eventuality for which French defense, "without resigning ourselves to the worst," must be prepared.

World Politics Review here presents translated extracts from Hervé Morin's speech to the French "Defense University." The italicized titles are provided by WPR. Bolding in the text itself reflects the bolding in the French version of the text published on the Web site of the French Ministry of Defense.

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