Defense Europe: Why does France fail to convince?

It's (almost) official now, Belgium has chosen, unsurprisingly, to replace its F16s, the American offer based on Lockheed's F35A. And even if the Belgian government takes the greatest precautions not to offend its French neighbor who proposed the Rafale, by simultaneously announcing the launch of the CAMO program aimed at acquiring 450 VBMR Griffon and 50 EBRC Jaguar from France, the devastating comments did not take long, in the press and on social networks.

As was the case during the Polish or Swedish choices in favor of the Patriot PAC-3 against the Franco-Italian MAMBA SAMP/T, it is above all the weak adherence to Defense Europe which is singled out, with the role of NATO and the supposed subjugation of countries to American power as a corollary. Surprisingly, very few wonder about the reasons for this low support, and even less about what it would be necessary to modify, on the French side, to effectively create this European dynamic.

An “ideal” context for the emergence of Defense Europe

It is clear that the current international and economic context is particularly favorable for the emergence of a European Defense initiative. On the one hand, the return of Russian military power, supported by its Chinese ally, is generating tensions close to those of the Cold War, creating a compelling need for investments in defense for all European countries. On the other hand, the United States appears more and more like a partner that no longer has its former reliability, and whose decisions on the international scene are sometimes more than doubtful. Finally, despite the 2010 crisis, Europe is economically stronger and richer than ever, with an overall GDP exceeding that of the United States.

European differences singled out

However, it seems that European states today favor their differences over their convergences when it comes to Defense Europe. Often referred to as the main obstacle to the rapprochement of the Franco-German couple in matters of Defense, the differences concerning international policy are presented as incompatible by many commentators.

Moreover, if all governments say they are in favor of Defense Europe, the vast majority of them prefer to remain under the protective wing of NATO and the United States, deeming it more reliable and realistic than the project led by France and Germany.

The comparison with the United States at the heart of the problem

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