Panel: France Could be ‘Bridge Partner’ Between U.S., Europe to Counter China, Russia


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With a new American administration coming in January and the United Kingdom departing the European Union, France could be America’s new “bridge partner” to the continent in countering high-end military challenges from Moscow and Beijing and meeting reinvigorated terrorist threats, top security experts said Thursday.

Despite divergent views “on strategic autonomy,” retired Adm. James Foggo, the former commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe based in Naples, said “that was a big question for France” in 2009 when it re-integrated its forces — including its nuclear forces — with NATO.

France pulled its military forces from NATO command in the 1960s and ordered the alliance headquarters out of Paris. Foggo noted that when France’s top military commander was asked at the time which way its missiles and nuclear forces were targeted, he said, “everywhere.”

The security situation between the two nuclear powers has flipped almost 180 degrees.

“The key thing here is continuing dialogue,” so that split doesn’t return, he said.

The incoming Biden administration should be able work with Paris “to build a coalition of the willing” to meet the new security challenges Washington and the alliance will face, said Torrey Taussig, research director at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

As a recent example, Alice Guitton, the director-general for International Relations and Strategy for France’s Ministry of Armed Forces, said, “Our cooperation with the United States is all over the place.” Speaking at the Atlantic Council online forum, she called the cooperation “unprecedented” in the history of the alliance that dates back to the American Revolution.

She cited Operation Dynamic Mongoose, a sophisticated antisubmarine, anti-surface warfare exercise involving the United States, France and Norway, as an example of “we train as we fight together.”

The cooperation goes beyond exercises and Freedom of Navigation operations in the South China Sea.

Foggo specifically mentioned how joint carrier operations with the French have matured over the years — from makeshift communication links to deconflict air and sea operations in 2009 to having carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91) fill the gap when there was no large-deck American presence in the Middle East. The navies are now backstopping each other as needed.

“We need to increase cooperation” at all levels, starting at the lieutenant and lieutenant commander level, Foggo said, to build trust over the years. Guitton, who carries the rank of ambassador, added that the collaboration crosses domains into space and cyber “to make sure we can cooperate” in times of crisis.

“It’s ridiculous [not to be able] to share intelligence, strategic data,” Foggo added. “Everybody has a right to know what the threats are, what the targets are.”

(More at link)

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