France will soon rejoin NATO's military command after its four-decade absence, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday, as part of a 15-year plan that highlight terrorism as the largest national security threat.
President Sarkozy presented France's new defense strategy in a much awaited speech, announcing plans to modernize Europe's second more powerful military and will create a 15-year national security strategy that will deal with terrorism, missile strikes and natural disasters.
Sarkozy said that six or seven years from now, French forces will total 225,000.
France was a founding member of the alliance in 1949 but President Charles de Gaulle withdrew France from NATO's military command in 1966 as he sought to reassert France's independence after the grueling post-World War II years. That decision meant no French forces could be under permanent allied command and that France would have no participation in defense planning.
France has continued, however, to contribute troops to NATO missions and to participate in NATO's political bodies.
At the doors of Europe, in an area that spans from west Africa to Asia, via the Mediterranean and Gulf regions, elements of instability and violence are numerous,'' President Nicolas Sarkozy said. Today the most immediate threat is that of a terrorist attack.''
Sarkozy emphasized three conditions for France to rejoin NATO's military command: that France retains freedom to decide whether to send its troops to an alliance operation; will have full control of its nuclear arsenal and that it will not place any French contingent under NATO command permanently during peacetime.
NATO allows its 26 member countries to have freedom to choose whether to take part in alliance missions.