On France’s Return to NATO

Benoit d’Aboville in Project Syndicate:

What will be the consequences of France’s return to NATO’s integrated military structure?

The Allies are quietly satisfied, but nobody expects major changes in France military contribution: in the last ten years, it has been on par with the other major European allies. The reason is simple: since France’s return to the Military Committee in 1994, its position within NATO has allowed for full participation in the Alliance’s military and political activities. 

In Paris, the move has not in itself raised major political opposition for two main reasons.
First, nobody disputes the obvious: since Charles de Gaulle’s decision to withdraw from the military organization, more than 40 years ago, the Alliance and the world have changed profoundly. Today’s global threats demand greater European as well as NATO solidarity, and the Alliance’s successive enlargements mean that most EU members are now NATO members as well.

Second, the whole notion of “integration” is completely different since de Gaulle’s day.
When the Warsaw Pact existed, NATO troops were positioned in such a way that any attack would collectively involve most of the allies. The whole Central Front was tightly coordinated, and even France was involved in NATO planning through a set of special agreements. The Cold War’s end, and the subsequent transformation of NATO into an “expeditionary alliance,” has made “integration” largely irrelevant: each member’s contribution to NATO operations is decided by individual NATO members ad hoc and on the basis of consensus.