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Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 184–194 | Cite as

France and NATO, 1949–1991

  • Marc TrachtenbergEmail author
Article

Abstract

What role, in the French view, was the United States to play in the defence of Europe? From the very outset, the feeling was that the NATO allies could not be totally dependent on the United States for their security. Even during the Fourth Republic, the French were interested in building a European counterweight to American power within the Western alliance, and during the Gaullist period the whole idea of an independent Europe seemed to play an even more prominent role in French policy. But an independent Europe would have to include a strong, and therefore nuclearised, West German state, something the French throughout the ColdWar era could scarcely bring themselves to accept. That meant that there was no alternative to a continuing American military presence in Europe, and thus to a degree of political dependence upon the United States — a conclusion the French, with great difficulty, came to at the end of the Cold War.

Keywords

France NATO defence of Europe US–European relations Franco–American relations 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Couve meeting with Bohlen and Finletter, 30 November 1963, Documents diplomatiques français [DDF] 1963: 2, 576.Google Scholar
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    Kissinger memo for Nixon on Military Relations with France, 23 February 1970, National Security Council Files [NSCF], box 916, Nixon Presidential Library, Yorba Linda, CA.Google Scholar
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    Bruce to Acheson, 1 August 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States [FRUS] 1950: 3, 171.Google Scholar
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    ‘Avis du Comité des chefs d’état-major du 23 août 1951’, quoted in Pierre Guillen, ‘Les militaires français et la création de l’OTAN’, in Maurice Vaïsse, Pierre Melandri and Frédéric Bozo, La France et l’OTAN 1949–1996 (Brussels: Editions Complexe, 1996), 78; see also ibid., 87–8.Google Scholar
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    See Marc Trachtenberg, ‘La formation du système de défense occidentale: les Etats-Unis, la France et MC 48’, ibid., 118–20.Google Scholar
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    The British and French, for example, had to take the lead in working out the arrangements that were embodied in the Paris Accords of 1954. The Americans, who under Eisenhower had very much preferred the plan for a European Defence Community — because the EDC, in their view, would lead to a unified Europe, and that in turn would make it possible for Europe to defend itself and thus for the United States to eventually withdraw from the continent — accepted the 1954 arrangements grudgingly. For the story, see Marc Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement, 1945–1963 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 121–5.Google Scholar
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    See Melandri, ‘La France et l’Alliance atlantique’, 539–40.Google Scholar
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    Frédéric Bozo, Mitterrand, the End of the Cold War, and German Unification (New York: Berghahn Books, 2009), 14, 66, 245.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 13, 59, 245.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 195.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of California at Los AngelesUSA

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