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Security Conflict

How France ‘Set the Standard’ for Crisis Intervention

Armoured vehicle being unloaded from an aircraft. Photo: UK Ministry of Defence/Flickr.
Royal Air Force assisting France to move Military equipment to Mali. Photo: UK Ministry of Defence/Flickr.

A very senior British general said of Operation Serval in Mali that France had “set the standard” for crisis military interventions. Praise indeed and not easily given. One can always tell when a crisis is being managed to effect as the press lose interest.

The challenge Paris faced when four thousand French troops arrived in Mali in February was complicated to say the least. Tuaregs had taken control of northern Mali and sought separation. They were supported by a particularly nasty bunch of Islamists (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Mujao) who had profited (literally) from the chaos in neighboring Libya. To make things worse the Malian Army, or what was left of it, was in meltdown and the country’s political system with it. Now, with the Tuaregs having signed a June peace deal, last year’s military coup leader having apologized and elections planned for 28 July, Mali has at least a chance of a future.

How did the French pull off this genuine military success?

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Euro-Realism: A British-German Axis?

David Cameron, Angela Merkel and Prof Joachim Sauer at Schloss Meseberg, in Germany. Image by the Prime Ministers Office/Flickr.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder once said, “They have it wrong if they ask if Schroeder favors Britain over France or France over Britain. Schroeder favors Germany.” Watching David Cameron with family enjoying a German weekend break with Angela Merkel one could be forgiven for thinking all is well in the British-German relationship. And yet for all the well-publicized frictions it is equally clear that Cameron and Merkel get on. It is also clear that the two countries need and will need each other. Is this the beginning of a British-German axis?

There is after all much to unite Britain and Germany. According to the CIA World Factbook (it must be true then) Britain and Germany are the two biggest EU countries with the two largest economies by purchasing power parity. Germany is Europe’s economic leader whilst Britain remains (just) Europe’s military leader. The two countries also share a surprisingly close strategic relationship on a whole raft of issues not least the two most pressing: the lack of fiscal resources and the need for Europe to become competitive.

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Pacific NATO?

NATO Ministerial meeting. Image by Secretary of Defense/Flickr.

The Atlantic Alliance is about to enter a tumultuous period of change both in Europe and the wider world. How we all conceive of our place in that world will be critical to the Alliance.

This dawning reality was brought home to me Friday when I had the honor of debating NATO’s emerging security challenges with the Norwegian ambassador to NATO and his colleagues on the Norwegian Permanent Delegation. Given changing energy patterns and the melting of Arctic ice, Norway will find itself on a new ‘front-line’ as the High North becomes a source of exploitation and friction. Moreover, with yesterday’s re-election of Shinzo Abe as Japan’s prime minister and the possibility of renewed tensions with China, a most profound question was also apparent: what, if any, is NATO’s Pacific role?