Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Entente Frugale: Britain and France Sign Military Agreements

Britain and France signed agreements on increased military co-operation including the joint use of aircraft carriers and nuclear facilities.

The agreements have already been called 'entente frugale'.
They are being forced by budget cut-backs to co-operate more closely on defence, writes Paul Reynolds, the BBC world affairs correspondent. They both want to be global players but increasingly lack the resources to remain so. So a series of measures were formally agreed at a summit in London on Tuesday, 2 November, between Prime Minister David Cameron and President Nicolas Sarkozy. And to judge from a phrase used by Mr Cameron this co-operation might in due course develop quite significantly. He said of one of the measures - the mutual use of each other's single aircraft carrier - that this might lead to an 'integrated strike force.'

Considering the historical rivalry between Britain and France, which largely shaped the modern world, the agreements are unprecedented - and overall positive. There are serious questions that were brushed aside though, including ‘the Falklands scenario’. And the history of previous joint Anglo-French military attempts isn’t that encouraging. The Crimean War against Russia, though won, drained both countries enormously. The first world war lead to America emerging as the superpower and the intervention in Russia in 1918 collapsed. Britain and France lost to German onslaught in 1940 and the Suez crisis of 1956 was a fiasco. 
The USA wasn’t consulted in 1956, but this time, it is reported, America was informed and approved of the agreements. Anglo-French accords may be seen as part of the general trend in the West towards multilateral approach with NATO gaining an increasingly important role. 
These are new times, but it’s worth staying cautious, even if optimistically. 
Here’s Tom Lehrer’s take on ‘multilateral force’:

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