British and French military establishments face 'Entente or oblivion'

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Due to the current economic and strategic climate, British and French militaries must co-operate or 'risk ending the current decade amputated and shrunk beyond recognition', argues the latest Future Defence Review Working Paper from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

Franco-BritishEntente or Oblivion: Prospects and Pitfalls of France-British Co-operation on Defence, by Etienne de Durand, states that both military establishments face a battle to maintain their current levels of capability.

The paper maintains that, without some sort of bilateral agreement, Britain and France will not be able to conduct a conventional war to the levels that both nations desire.

The paper argues: 'The negative trends of economic austerity, defence inflation and a demanding strategic environment are rapidly converging into a downward spiral that, if nothing is done, will prove the end of the defence game for the two middle powers in Europe.'

Neither Britain nor France would be able to preserve even a 'slowly slipping status quo' of global power projection and maintain all conventional capabilities required in modern warfare without a radical rethinking of their militaries.

It says: 'If nothing is done, British and French military capabilities will rapidly diminish beyond repair both in terms of overall volume and critical capabilities.'

The paper does recognise that such co-operation will be difficult due, in no small part, to social and cultural issues as much as political reasons.

It points out: 'Not only must bad memories and long-standing prejudices be gradually mitigated, but the traditional rivalry over the leadership in European security affairs must also be set aside.'

However, Durand believes that US estrangement from Europe, a weakening US/UK relationship and the current fiscal crisis has removed many of these barriers to an agreement.

He also believes that the strategic interests of both nations are so alike that such an arrangement is not just expedient to the situation but also makes sense for the long term strategic survival of both militaries.

'There is therefore hope that the hard budgetary and military times that have befallen the two nations...will prove to be the opportunity to launch, in common, a serious initiative on defence,' the report says.

The paper warns that this avenue of opportunity must be explored quickly to take advantage of the current situation, which may disappear as quickly as it comes, and that bilateral agreement is the only sensible way forward.

To view in full 'Entente or Oblivion: Prospects and Pitfalls of France-British Co-operation on Defence', and learn more about the Future Defence Review series, please visit



  • 1. For all enquiries please contact Stephen Ho / +44 (0)20 7747 4957.
  • 2. Etienne de Durand is Director of the Centre for Security Studies at the Institut Français des Relations Internationales, Paris.

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