As French President François Hollande arrived in Washington, DC, earlier this week, I shared my thought on the US alliance with France and the opportunities for our two countries to work together to strengthen international security. There are many reasons to look to deepen alliances with France:

“Before his election in May 2012, Hollande seemed an unlikely candidate for special attention by either the White House or the Pentagon. His Socialist Party cohorts–including current Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius–had lambasted Nicolas Sarkozy, Hollande’s predecessor, for reintegrating France into NATO military structures after its 43-year absence. While campaigning, Hollande rashly pledged to withdraw all 3,400 French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012. (Under Sarkozy, the French were the third largest European troop contributor, after the British and Germans, and often assumed tough combat missions.)

As president, however, Hollande has steered a pragmatic course broadly convergent with U.S. strategic interests. True, real French defense spending has dipped with inflation, and some conventional capabilities have been trimmed. But new air transports, air refuelers, and U.S.-built Reaper “drones” are entering their forces, and the nuclear deterrent has been largely protected. Hollande should be strongly encouraged to avoid further cuts while commended for his global engagement.”

Meanwhile, little has changed in France’s approach to NATO. French officers have kept important posts, including as head of Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Va., one of the alliance’s two strategic commands. Hollande stretched out the pledged drawdown in Afghanistan, where some 200 French military remain in training, medical, and logistical roles. And should NATO deploy its Response Force (NRF) during 2014, whether inside Europe or further afield, a French headquarters will command the NRF’s high-readiness land component.”

There is much more to say about this important relationship. You can read more about the opportunities and challenges of strengthening ties with our oldest ally on the FP.

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