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1789-1799 The French Revolution overthrows the Bourbon monarchy and installs Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor. 1803-1815 The First French Empire and its allies wage the Napoleonic Wars. After conquering most of Europe, Napoleon is defeated twice, first in Leipzig (1814) and at last in Waterloo (1815). The Congress of Vienna restores the antebellum European order. 1869-1871 France and the German states led by Prussia fight the Franco-Prussian War. France is dealt a humiliating defeat, and loses Alsace-Lorraine to a newly united Germany. Late 1800s to early 1900s France expands its colonial empire to include much of Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia; it also forms alliances with Russia (1894) and the United Kingdom (1905). 1914-1918 World War I. France regains Alsace-Lorraine and exacts harsh punishment on Germany at Versailles. 1939-1945 World War II. France falls in 1940 to Nazi Germany, but is liberated four years later. France is notably left out of the Yalta Conference, but is later included in the postwar settlement at Potsdam and the new UN Security Council. 1950s onwards France leads the process of European integration, founding the ECSC and signing the Treaties of Rome (1957), the Single European Act (1986), Maastricht (1992), Lisbon (2007), among other important European treaties. 1958 The Algiers crisis leads to the creation of the Fifth Republic (and its strong executive) under Charles de Gaulle. 1950s-1960s France slowly withdraws from its colonial empire, including Indochina (lost in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, 1954), Algeria (1962), and Francophone Africa.

1989-1992 End of the Cold War. Germany is reunited, stoking renewed French fears of a German-dominated Europe. France leads the discussion on ever closer European integration, especially the European Monetary Unit. 1990s-2010s France strengthens its ties with the West through participation in NATO, participating in the bombing of Yugoslavia (1999), the invasion of Afghanistan (2001), and the intervention in Libya (2011). However they split with the US on the invasion of Iraq (2003).


France, like the United States, believes that it has a special role to play in the world. This mission civililatrice (civilizing mission) is a key component of both French national identity and perceptions of France by other states. Frances rank and world influence are important to French policymakers; in short, France cannot be France without greatness. (Charles de Gaulle) This is shown in (among others) its membership in the UN Security Council (UNSC), relations with its former colonies and the Arab world, attitudes towards nuclear weapons, and advocacy for human rights; this selfimage however remains contested.

Multilateralism is important to all 27 states of the European Union, which is itself a multilateral entity stitched over fifty years. (CRS, 2011) Decision-making in international institutions helps lend legitimacy to government policy. The UN is seen as the locus for decision-making for member states actions on international security. Both the EU and the UN are seen

as civilizing institutions, having special meaning for a continent that has experienced two World Wars. France plays a key role in several international institutions: it holds a UNSC veto; important policies in the EU are not possible without its support; French officials are prominent or central in bodies such as the European Commission, European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

President is the Chief of the Armed Forces and the National Defense Council, and has sole responsibility for launching French nuclear weapons. His personal bureaucracy wields immense power, and is often called a Foreign Office in miniature. o The Prime Minister Has largely deferred to the President in matters of foreign policy, though challenges have occurred. The Cabinet generally ratifies Elyse decisions. The Foreign Minister Largely responsible for the detailed implementation of the Presidents foreign policy;


France is a founding member of the European Union (in its earlier iterations the ECSC and the EC). The EU was conceived fulfilling two interrelated sets of objectives: economic (promoting postwar trade and development) and political (rapprochement between Germany and its former enemies, and continental stability). France has taken a leading role in achieving greater political unity and economic strength within the European Union. Starting with Chirac, France has taken the position that its strength is best asserted within the European Union. o

Forces from below influences on French foreign policy; o The Foreign Ministry serves largely as an adjunct of the Presidents office, relegating bureaucrats to minor roles; the Foreign Service continues to lose prestige relative to other departments; Parliament assumes an a posteriori oversight role through parliamentary questions, and even then this is largely symbolic; The military coordination of defense and foreign policy under the Fifth Republic has diminished the role of the military; The media plays a very limited role in the formation of foreign policy, largely ignored by government and hobbled by substantial selfcensorship;

Though France has lived through at least four regimes within the last hundred years, Keiger (2001) writes that the foreign policy process changed little for most of that period, with only shifts in the distribution of responsibilities. He classifies the forces that shape French foreign policy into two groups: Forces from above the initiators of French foreign policy; o The President Responsible for the general direction of foreign policy and taking major decisions of international importance; The

The commercial, industrial, and financial interests The role of these interests in French foreign policy is unclear, though there are the makings of a military-industrial complex. These interests are mostly themselves the instruments of French foreign policy.

Lastly, it guaranteed France a permanent seat on the UN Security Council; as long as Germany remained divided, no serious challenge (besides one from Japan perhaps) existed to the UK and Frances great power pretensions.




Despite having always been critical of the 1945 Yalta settlement, France had benefited from the Cold War in a number of ways: It allowed France to carve itself a niche between the two world superpowers, thus elevating its role in international politics. Despite only being a medium power at best (and one with neocolonial pretensions at that), France was able to enhance its international standing by maintaining a relatively independent foreign policy and championing the cause of the Third World; In pretending to be aloof from the Cold War and the superpowers, France could have its cake and eat it too. (Keiger, 2001) France benefited from the protection of American nuclear weapons while maintaining good relations with the Soviet Union, thus fulfilling its traditional objective of having a friend on Germanys flank; The Cold War justified the division of Germany, achieving its 1918 and 1945 war aims; The Cold War also justified Frances nuclear deterrent, as a marker of great power status and as a hedge against Germany;

The end of the Cold War brought an end to this Cold War coziness. France had to shed its Gaullist outlook and reconsider its foreign policy on several fronts.


With the reunification of Germany, the old German problem resurfaced. France, after trying to delay reunification, instead resorted to binding Germany within an ever closer European Union. France has shifted from the traditional Gaullist view that held it could act alone and at the same time remain the Unions most important member. French leaders have accepted their relinquishment of preeminent power status within the EU to Germany as the cost of German integration. However, internal politics has at times hindered France from realizing its European ambitions. Case in point: Turkeys accession to the EU was strongly opposed by the Sarkozy government, in an apparent attempt to pander to xenophobic and protectionist elements within France.



The end of the Cold War has necessitated the transformation of French defense and security policy, carried out on several levels. The transformation of the armed forces The French defense establishment has stated its intent to

shift from personnel-based military operations to a more knowledge-based security. France has spent several years modernizing and downsizing its armed forces, emphasizing air and naval assets. Despite decreased tension, France has decided to keep and even modernize its nuclear deterrent, engaging in limited multilateral disarmament. Increased security cooperation A post-Cold War security environment has rendered independent action increasingly unfeasible for French leaders. France has renewed its commitment to increasing military spending (pegged at a minimum of 2% of GDP) amidst a backdrop of fiscal austerity. This realization has drawn France into closer cooperation with the EU and NATO on security issues. France made the adoption of a common European Defense and Security Policy one condition of German reunification, and has advocated the creation of a European intervention force. Under Sarkozy France also reintegrated its forces into the unified NATO command in 2007. France has also shown willingness to cooperate bilaterally, as in the 2010 agreement with the UK to share an aircraft carrier. The shifting of French strategic foci The traditional French security axis from Paris to Dakar to Brazzaville has given way to a new strategic consensus. The 2008 White Paper on Defense and Security Policy has identified a new arc of crisis that stretches from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. In line with this, France is reconfiguring the staging points for its global operations, winding down its long-standing involvement in Sub-Saharan Africa and investing in the Middle East. In one manifestation of this shift, France has established the first non-US military base in the Middle East.

France not only had to give up its claim to being the dominant military power on the continent after German reunification; it had to concede economic supremacy to Germany as well. Frances traditionally left-wing economic policies have been subjected to repeated modification from the liberal EU. This has repeatedly met with intense backlash from the general populace, whose ways of life are threatened by European integration and globalization in general. This has not stopped French companies like Renault from taking advantage of liberal reforms. France has also been forced to concede considerable ground in cultural matters, while continuing to push for a privileged position in such affairs. It argues for the use of French in the World Trade Organization as a nod to cultural particularisms. Heavy restrictions are placed on non-French language media in France, a response to their increasing penetration. The French language continues to be widely taught around the world through the efforts of the Alliance Francaise. In 1997 it founded the Francophonie, an organization of French-speaking (and French-loving?) countries.

Keiger, J. F. V. (2001). France and the World after 1870. Young. Oxford University Press. Defense, F. M. of. (2008). The French White Paper on defence and national security.