Year XXXVIII, 1996, Number 3 - Page 202

 

 

FRANCE AND GERMANY AT THE CROSSROADS
 
 
The Balance of Expectations Between Union and Division.
 
The end of the Cold War and the first attempts to create a system of universal security which includes the ecological and economic as well as the military dimension, have ensured that mankind has become aware of the beginning of a new phase in relations between states. But first the Gulf War and then the fall of Gorbachev with the consequent disintegration of the USSR and of Yugoslavia have shown how dramatic the transition can be from a world system in which the stability and security of vast areas were in any case guaranteed by the deterrence policy exercised by the two superpowers, to one in which political, military and economic instability threaten to spread beyond all control. The most obvious case is precisely that of Europe, formerly divided into two areas of influence which appeared definitively pacified internally, today divided into a still stable western zone and a central-eastern zone which risks precipitating the continent into a situation of chronic instability.
With the fall of Gorbachev, and hence with the end of the prospect of reforming the UN on the basis of Soviet-American cooperation in the field of security, the expectation of building a more peaceful world order in a short time has weakened. In some states pride has flowered again as in the USA, but also in France; in others anxiety — as in Germany and Japan — over having to assume world responsibilities. Both the former and the latter groups continue to pay homage to the reform of the UN, but in concrete they are more concerned with not losing privileges or with acquiring new ones rather than making the United Nations more effective and democratic.
While on the one hand globalisation produces growing expectations for the extension of the powers of international bodies, on the other hand it feeds the illusion that the territorial principle of power has been overcome.
Local conflicts and the risks of nuclear and mass extermination weapons proliferation bear witness to the close connection which still exists between foreign policy and the military factor.
These contradictory and disconnected phenomena are the symptom of the crisis of power which has assailed the world order and recall the agony of the European system of states described by Dehio:[1] an agony however which is no longer caused by the ascent of new powers, but rather by the fact that no balance of power seems now possible without the progressive transformation of the UN into a structure of world government. In this situation what are the possibilities of political action to advance federalism?
Such a question cannot be answered without overcoming the merely internationalist vision of liberalism, democracy and socialism, which has already twice this century proved insufficient to comprehend the profound causes of the crisis in the nation state and international anarchy. This vision, as Albertini showed, by ignoring the fundamental law of how states behave, the reason of state, becomes its prisoner de facto. It is only with federalism that the comprehension of the reason of state can be analysed both in its theoretical aspects — relating precisely to the policies which states conduct to guarantee their own survival — and in its ideological aspect — relating to the cult of the nation. The analysis of the theoretical and ideological aspects of the reason of state highlights a structural element in the life of several independent states which enter into a relationship amongst themselves. This can help to understand how globalization and the fact that these days the reason of state does not manifest itself with the demoniacal face of power politics, do not yet imply that it has ceased to be “the rule of political action, the motive law of the state”.[2] Certainly the choice of the way which inclines to the pursuit of reason of state, as Meinecke notes, can be “limited by the individual nature of the state and environment,” but as long as independent and sovereign states exist, these, at every moment, will be governed by the law of their respective reason of state. Meinecke warned after all that, “under the coincident pressure of ideal and utilitarian motives”, the statesman can even temporarily respect the boundaries of law and morality. But what happens at the moment when, with the diminution of these motives, the power to wage war remains in the hands of independent, sovereign and armed states?
Certainly reason of state, understood in its theoretical aspect, is today constrained by the evolution of the mode of production to operate while also taking account of the need for the unity of the human race.
Yet the growing economic and political interdependence among the states, though limiting the degree of freedom of choice of the reason of state, does not annul it. The policies of regional and world integration have become part of the calculation of reason of state: in various regions of the world, and in the first place in western Europe, precisely in the name of Salus populi, suprema lex, the states have already had to accept the transfer of part of their national sovereignty to a higher level (as has happened with monetary sovereignty in the European Union).
All this is not yet sufficient however to shift the balance of expectations of the national foreign and security policies towards the construction of peace. Certainly there are signs of a growing demand throughout the world for greater justice and police capacity at international level. But this demand clashes then in the final instance with the fact that, despite increased reciprocal trust, the states cannot exclude war from the possible options they could take. This explains why they are reforming and restructuring their respective defence systems and armies, but not abolishing them. In a transitional phase such as we are now living in, this policy can be reconciled with the need to reinforce the international policing function of national armies. Moreover, as shown by the crises of the Gulf, the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, Somalia and Rwanda, it is not possible to promote any peace-keeping policy without having intervention forces equipped with the best technology and without an effective military apparatus capable of transporting, moving and protecting substantial military contingents. Precisely for this reason the expectation which is tending to take root today is that which puts its trust in the only powers still able to undertake these global tasks: the USA and coalitions of national armies. This however is a short term expectation, which clashes with the impossibility for the USA of continuing to fulfil this role of leadership for long, and which in short offers no alternative to the return to international anarchy, i.e. to a system in which, as Lord Lothian warned, the military time-table would inevitably dominate the states’ decisions.
The only alternative to this prospect would lie in the immediate reinforcement — primarily in Europe — of the processes of regional unification in the ambit of a process of reform of the UN. Only thus in fact could the political time-table, that of international pacification, dominate the decisions of the reasons of state and create a different balance of expectations.
The uncertainty and contradictions of the foreign and security policies of the states therefore reflect doubts as to the outcome of the race against time to consolidate the cornerstones of the process of unification of the human race before it is replaced by resignation to chaos.
The most irresponsible heads of state and government and national public opinion confound these moments of transition with the opening of an era of greater freedom of choice in foreign policy, thus contributing to anticipate and augment the risks of anarchy. Those most astute, but anxious to preserve national power, seek pragmatically to keep all roads open.[3] In this context both on the cultural and on the political level federalism remains the only instrument to comprehend the risks we run, and to fight for the realisation of peace.
On the basis of these general considerations one can analyse the future of European foreign policy and the role of France and Germany, setting out from the consequences of the scientific and technological revolution as regards questions of security.
 
Technological Innovation and Crises of World Leaderships.
 
Innovation contributed to the crisis in the strategy of bipolar confrontation based on the arms race, but cannot abolish the risk of war on its own.
For decades after the end of the Second World War, scientific and technological development was fed, in both the USA and the USSR, by research and applications in the military field. The revolution of high technology, from 1945 on, would have been unthinkable without the influence of military policy. But since the eighties this has no longer been the case.[4] At that time countries which had remained on the margins of military confrontation, like Germany, but above all Japan, began to acquire considerable advantages on the level of technological innovation in sectors until then considered strategic for the pursuit of world leadership, like electronics and communications. The American capacity for technological innovation, which however maintained an ample margin of advantage over the Soviets, was by now second to the Japanese. Awareness of this was manifested very clearly both in the USA and in the USSR.
In the USA the Reagan administration tried, with the star wars project, to put back in motion the positive cycle by which development of innovations financed ambitious and costly research in the military field. But the Reagan project did not have the hoped-for effects on civil industry: some of the major American companies actually turned down the Pentagon’s orders because to accept them would have meant, for reasons of secrecy, setting up inconvenient production lines parallel to the civil ones.
Meanwhile in the USSR Gorbachev was trying to dismantle a bureaucratic and centralised system which until then had impeded the creation of any collaboration between military and civil industry. In 1987, while in the USA millions of computers were already active, in the USSR plans were still being made to produce only a few tens of thousands per year. At the moment of Gorbachev’s inauguration, the computer-gap accumulated by the USSR was by then estimated at 10-15 years. It was therefore not by chance that in his speech to the 23rd Congress of the CPSU Gorbachev indicated the ambitious objective of reducing this gap by 1990.[5] In the USSR, more dramatically than in the USA, it was becoming evident how the diffusion of technological innovation in civil production in the field of leading technologies (semiconductors, computers, the aeronautical industry) had progressively reduced the role of military spending as a driving force in innovation. As we know, the USSR has not stood up to this challenge.
But for the USA too the problem arose of reviewing their own military industrial policy. The Clinton administration has in fact had to admit the impossibility of maintaining world leadership as a superpower without pursuing technological leadership in the civil field. In this context, what was discussed for decades only on the theoretical plane, was translated into a strategy, that of dual-use, which admitted the growing dependence of the defence sector on technologies developed for civil uses.[6] Due to this acceptance of the facts, in 1994 a decisive turn was taken in the US system of defence supplies, when the Ministry of Defence no longer recognised the supremacy of military specifications and standards over those of civil industry. The objective of the American federal government is therefore no longer that of promoting innovation through military projects, but rather that of “facilitating the introduction of commercial technologies into military systems”.[7] But such a choice implies the encouragement of research and development of all applications and productions of new technologies by civil industry, with the consequent abandonment of costly and useless military prototypes.[8] For the USA military power is thus once more becoming subordinate, as on the eve of their entry into the First World War, to the civil productive system.[9]
But the promotion of productive capacities in high technology for civil use has international military implications today which the individual states are not able to govern. On the one hand every advancement on the road of the scientific and technological mode of production implies an ever greater circulation of information on technical and scientific progress throughout the world. On the other hand the disappearance of the barriers which for decades have hindered the free circulation of the fruits of technological innovation risks accentuating the problem of the proliferation of the most advanced military technologies in those countries which, aspiring to a policy of power, constitute the principle breeding-grounds of instability.
In this context Europe is called on to fulfil a crucial role. It must choose between two alternatives: to become a colony both on the technological and on the political and military plane, or to provide itself with adequate institutions to become an active and positive player in international politics.
 
The Future of European Foreign Policy and the French and German Reason of State.
 
In a world where security threats are multiplying and the power of a state is not measured simply in terms of military capacity, but also economic capacity and innovative potential, the European states taken individually have no future. The Europe of the nation states has long lost military leadership, and is worryingly behind in technological innovation. Whereas at the end of the eighteenth century the industrial revolution had radiated out into the world starting from Europe, the revolution in high technology migrated first to America and then to Asia starting in 1945.
France and Germany, which alone in Europe have attempted in the post-war period to defend first their own military sovereignty and second their scientific and technological leadership, are today faced with a choice: to contribute towards the effectiveness of the European Union’s foreign and security policy, thus definitively putting national aspirations in second place, or to resign themselves to an inevitable decline.
Within ten years France will no longer be among the first ten world economic powers and perhaps not even among the major nuclear powers, while the future of Germany is linked to the development of the situation on its eastern borders.
Faced with this prospect, Chirac’ s conclusion has been that only by playing a role of initiative in the military field at European level, can France guarantee herself a future of peace and prosperity.[10] It is in this perspective that the French decision was developed to reform national service and concentrate resources on adapting the policy of nuclear dissuasion to a still-changing world context. A dissuasion which clearly cannot fail to take account of the needs of neighbours, and primarily of Germany:[11] “The European dimension is inevitable primarily for our traditional armed forces, which must be able to intervene whenever necessary in a European and inter-allied context. The professional army of tomorrow, in terms of mobility and availability, will allow us to respond better to our security needs, but also to those of Europe and the Atlantic Alliance. But the European dimension also appears in the field of nuclear dissuasion... It is not a question of replacing American dissuasion with a French or Franco-British guarantee. We want reinforcement of global dissuasion. This cooperation belongs to the perspective of global dissuasion. It is a question neither of unilaterally enlarging our dissuasion nor of imposing a new treaty on our partners. It is a question of drawing all the consequences of a community of destiny, of a growing interaction of our vital interests. Taking account of the difficulties which exist on this terrain in Europe, we do not propose a ready-made formula, but a gradual progress, open to partners who wish to commit themselves with us... It is necessary to put an end to what is perceived by the rest of the world as European impotence.”
This admission of the growing complementarity between French, European and world interests would seem to prelude a definitive admission of the need to overcome absolute national sovereignty. But this step is hard to take for one of the custodians of the vestiges of national sovereignty, as is the President of the French Republic. Chirac’s objective, as it comes through in his speech, is to take all those decisions which also leave his successors, even in a changing context, a sufficient and autonomous margin of manoeuvre in the international field.
In Chirac’s analysis the European vision continues to include the prospect of France as “a power with a world vocation,” capable of contributing to the good organisation of “a truly multipolar world”, in which it is not clear if one of the poles is to be France or Europe.
President Chirac’s proposal to reform national service is emblematic of the contradictions and weakness in which the nation state is caught even as regards the abolition of conscription. In fact, while on the one hand Chirac recognises the inadequacy of conscription, on the other hand he fails to respond fully to the need to replace it with an institution which educates the citizen to the new dimension of collective security. This ambiguity is evident in this passage from the speech in which, on the 28th May 1996, President Chirac announced to the French that “traditional conscription no longer responds to the needs of a modem army in a great modern country”. Chirac went on as follows: “In the past century conscription has mixed young people from all conditions and all regions in the brotherhood of the barracks. If national service has progressively become inadequate, it is my duty to defend the republican ideal it pursues, which is an ideal of equality, solidarity and patriotism. It is for this reason that I hope that every young person without exception, on coming of age, experiences an encounter with the nation. This encounter will allow a general balance to be drawn of the level of education reached by French youth. Its aim will be to open up new ways to favour the inclusion of young people in difficulty. It will be an occasion for civic information on how our democracy and institutions function, on respect for the rights of man, on the imperative of our security. During these days the young people can be offered different forms of service which they can voluntarily undertake. The duration of this voluntary service will be variable: nine months or perhaps less, depending on their chosen area of service”. Voluntary service can be in the following fields: reinforcement of security (army, gendarmerie, police, environmental protection and fire brigade), strengthening of national solidarity relative to public health (local social provision, hospitals, schools, various associations), and international cooperation.
Thus, by proposing a national civilian/military service that is voluntary and no longer obligatory, Chirac implicitly admits the weakness of the French state. For some time France has no longer been the appropriate state context to promote the universal ideals of the French revolution or to forge, through the army and school, the soldier-citizen necessary to the nation-states to pursue their respective reasons of state. France, like other European countries, no longer has the moral and political authority to oblige and convince its own citizens to serve their own country in a disinterested way.
Concerns about how the world order is evolving following the end of the Cold War also underpin the reflections of members of the German government. The end of the confrontation between military blocs, after an initial hope of greater security for all peoples, has opened the way to a series of dramatic local conflicts and to the risk of a new phase in the proliferation of weapons of total destruction. Germany is the country most interested in stabilisation of the world context. As Minister Rtihe recognised, “The era of power politics is finished in Europe. The name of the enemy today is instability and the strategies to defend oneself from it must not be designed for military confrontation, but to promote integration... The eastern border of Germany is also the border between stability and instability. This border cannot last for long. Either we export stability or we will import instability”.[12] But while waiting for the reform of NATO and the completion of the political unification of Europe, Germany aspires to fulfil a military role on a level with its economic power. For this reason Minister Rtihe declares it impossible to dismantle the system of conscription, which gives the Bundeswehr the possibility of mobilising 340,000 men in peacetime and 700,000 in case of war. This view is however in blatant contrast with the current tendency of German youth to prefer civilian to military service: the number of conscientious objectors is now greater than the number enlisted.
It is in this complex context that France and Germany have expressed the intention of putting the common foreign and security policy at the centre of the revision of the Treaty of Maastricht. But while Germany aims for the objective of the federal political union of Europe, France puts the emphasis on the reinforcement of the role of the European Council in the area of defence, therefore keeping to the ambit of intergovernmental politics. France on the one hand does not want to renounce its own sovereignty in the nuclear field, but on the other knows it cannot do without Europe to lend credibility to its own limited force of dissuasion. Germany declares it does not want to assume nuclear responsibilities, by means for example of a form of concerted nuclear policy with France, but at the same time knows it cannot renounce the French nuclear umbrella, it cannot abolish conscription without having the European guarantee, and it is tempted to reinforce its status as a medium power by becoming part of the UN Security Council.
At the moment the USA is manifesting the intention of diminishing their military — and nuclear — presence in Europe, the destiny of European security seems to be temporarily returning into the hands of the former European powers, which however show themselves inadequate to absolve this task and oscillate therefore between the temptation to pursue over-ambitious independent national policies and resignation to a role subordinate to American policy. But the risks linked to nuclear proliferation and local conflicts, with increasingly disruptive consequences on the level of balances and security, even in regions bordering on the Union, now make both the national way and that of subordinate to America very risky. Thus the French and German calculation of reason of state must keep open a third way, the European way, to guarantee the French and Germans more chance of having a role in defining the new context of world security. The problem therefore becomes that of establishing if at this moment it is enough to simply keep this way open, or if instead it is not necessary to accelerate the creation of a real federal state provided with all the powers relating to foreign and security policy.[13]
 
Franco Spoltore


[1] Ludwig Dehio, “Der Untergang des Staatensystems” (1953), in Deutschland und die Weltpolitik in 20. Jahrhundert.
[2] Friedrich Meinecke, Die Idee der Staatsräson in der neueren Geschichte, Oldenbourg, Munchen-Berlin, 1924.
[3] As the American President Nixon observed, “In the field of national security, each Presidency is a link in a chain. Each Administration inherits the force in being. The long range investments made by earlier Administrations define the ability to change that force in the near term... I am deeply conscious that my decisions with respect to defence policy will profoundly affect the ability of my successors to ensure the nation’s safety. I recognize that I cannot know, and can only imperfectly conceive, the crises which my successors may have to face. I, therefore, intend to forge a strong link in the chain”. See A Report to the Congress, February 25, 1971.
[4] See Konrad Seitz, Die japanisch-amerikanische Herausforderung.
[5] David A. Wellman, A Chip in the Curtain, Washington, National Defense University Press, 1989.
[6] Report by US President Bill Clinton, Technology for America’s Economic Growth, A new Direction to Build Economic Strength, Washington, February 1993.
[7] “The nation is to be equipped to gear up its industrial capabilities quickly to meet the military demands of a crisis”. US Ministry of Defense, Acquisition Reform: A Mandate for Change, Washington, February 1994.
[8] Ugo Farinelli, Scorie di guerra fredda, Rome, EDIESSE, 1996.
[9] It is in fact only after the USA entered the First World War that the American economy was strongly conditioned by the economy of war. At the beginning of this century, the major civil mechanical industrial productive capacity in North America had ipso facto put an enormous potential at the disposal of the USA’s meagre military arsenal, which in the space of a few months made it possible to send two million men equipped for war to the other side of the Atlantic, three quarters of them in only five months.
[10] See the speech delivered by the President of the Republic Jacques Chirac to the Institut de Hautes Etudes de Défense Nationale, Paris, 8th June 1996.
[11] The Franco-German summit at Dijon of 5th June 1996 sanctioned the intention of France and Germany to increasingly deepen their cooperation in the field of defence. In the course of President Chirac and Chancellor Kohl’s joint press conference, the latter said: “President Chirac has informed me in good time of his intention to reform the army... It has been very reassuring up till now to be able to count on the French nuclear weapons to protect German sovereignty. This has not been in contradiction with what has been done and what is being done in the context of NATO. We shall be discussing this. For the moment Germany does not want to exercise any direct right of control over French atomic weapons. This is not our objective”.
[12] See the speeches by the Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel in NATO Review, 26th April 1996, and by Minister of Defence Volker Ruhe at the John Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, 30th April 1996.
[13] The French Foreign Minister, Hervé de Charette, said of the role of the European Parliament and national Parliaments, that it was a question of “establishing how to ensure popular representation in a system in evolution” in which “the European Union is not yet the United States of Europe” (Séminaire Franco-Allemand, joint press conference, Paris, 2nd October 1996). The problem, for foreign and security policy too, consists precisely in these terms: are France and Germany working for a transition towards the United States of Europe or to maintain this dangerously ambiguous situation? This ambiguity is not resolved by the declarations and positions assumed by France. Minister Hervé de Charette does not for example see the contradiction between considering it normal that the process of European unification should lead to the drawing up of a European Constitution with the contribution of both national Parliaments and the European Parliament, and excluding a European state outcome when he calls the United States of Europe a dangerous utopia. (Speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, M. Hervé de Charette, on The Franco-German Relationship, Berlin, 7th October 1996).

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