France’s reintegration to NATO will not affect Russia’s rapprochement with alliance

France’s reintegration to NATO will not affect Russia’s rapprochement with alliance

Azerbaijan, Baku, March 13 / Trend , E.Ostapenko/

Despite the traditionally trusting partnership between France and Russia, France's reintegration into NATO will not become a turning point in improving relations of Russia with the alliance.

"The matter is not France's willingness, but is Russia's desire," Russian independent political analyst Leonid Radzikhovsky told Trend over phone from Moscow.

On March 11, French President Nicolas Sarkozy officially stated about France's willingness to return to NATO. "France and Europe are interested in country's returning to the alliance," Sarkozy said at the meeting of military experts in Paris, BBC quoted.

France, one of the twelfth countries that founded NATO, left the military command department of the alliance in 1966. Then French President Charles de Gaulle wanted to maintain France's defense independence, including French nuclear deterrent force, as well as to demonstrate its independence from the United States. At the same time country has formally remained a member of the Alliance and actively participated in NATO operations in the Balkans and in Afghanistan.

Russian and European experts thought on why France will not become a decisive factor in Russia's rapprochement with NATO are different.

European experts believe that the improvement of Russia's relations with NATO to a great extend depends on the U.S. position, rather than on France's willingness.

There is a tendency that NATO-Russia relations will be mush better, Finnish Institute of International Affairs Strategic thinking and armed forces of the United States Researcher Charly Salonius-Pasternak said.

"Most depends on how actively France is within NATO, but bigger decision is how the U.S. and Russia can work together and if they could get a kind of better relationship," Salonius-Pasternak added.

France's role is very important as it is commited to cooperation with Russia. Its position is very clear that cooperation with Russia is not negotiable, and it is an essential part as European security, Russia and NIS Centre, IFRI (French Institute of International Relations) Researcher Dominic Fean said.

The U.S. position is also valuable. America's relationship with Russia raises a different attempt to make things smoother and to find ways to cooperate, Fean said.                

France's reintegration now and relation between NATO and Russia is an indication that cooperation will continue. "We shouldn't expect any radical increase in cooperation, but attempts to cooperate will continue," Fean told Trend over phone from Paris.

However, a well-known Russian political analyst Radzikhovsky believes that the warming trend between NATO and Russia most likely depends on Russia than on France, as Russia will now seek to establish relations with the West, including NATO. This Russia's desire was motivated by the financial crisis.

"Russia is again very weak. It needs support, including the financial support of Western countries," Radzikhovsky said. Russia's former sharp confrontation with NATO is absolutely senseless.

There has been observed mutual attempts to approach between Russia and NATO. At the recent meeting of U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Brussels the sides pushed on the symbolic "restart" button.

"Russian sensible politicians and ordinary people are well aware that regardless of whether France is in NATO command structure or it is not, NATO is not a military threat to Russia any more", Radzikhovsky said.

France's reintegration to NATO began in 1990s. This process has become more definite after coming of Sarkozy to the office.

France's reintegration to the alliance will not affect the further integration of Ukraine and Georgia to the alliance, as well, experts believe.

France's move will not change anything specifically, probably because the main problem remains: Germany and France and a number of other NATO countries are skeptical about how wise it is to bring these countries into the alliance, Fean said.

Georgia is not ready now, he said. Georgia's military is now far behind it really was before. Georgia had made significant progress towards interoperability and the other criteria NATO looks at, but democracy and rule of law are still problems there, Fean added.

Entering NATO is now lower down on the list on Ukraine's priorities that it was before. It has never had complete public support that it needed. Ukraine has some potential to offer, but it needs a lot of developing.

France is perhaps less skeptical about Ukraine, Fean supposes. In France, Georgia and Ukraine's NATO hopes are not necessarily seen in the same way, they try to see them separately to understand the values of each potential candidate, Fean said.

What should be expected from France's reintegration into NATO is its rapprochement with the US, experts believe.

"Sarkozy has been saying from the very beginning that he is a consistent supporter of rapprochement between France and the U.S.", Radzikhovsky said. "Naturally, the France's returning into NATO's command structure is one step in its convergence with the U.S.".

A voting will be held in the Parliament due to France's reintegration into NATO's command organization. The voting is scheduled for March 17. The issue will be discussed at the NATO summit in Kehl and Strasbourg due to the 60th anniversary of the North Atlantic Alliance on April 3-4.

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