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Defence agreements of France (light blue) in 2008.
In addition to being a member of NATO (dark blue), France has bilateral agreements (olive) with Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, the United Arab Emirates, Gabon, Kuwait, Qatar, Senegal and Togo.
The Military of Francemarker encompasses an army, a navy, an air force and a gendarmerie. The President of the Republic heads the armed forces, with the title of "chef des armées" - "chief of the military forces". The President is the supreme authority for military matters and is the sole official who can order a nuclear strike. The French military has, as some of its primary objectives, the defence of national territory, the protection of French interests abroad, and the maintenance of global stability.

With a reported personnel strength of 779,450 in 2006 (259,050 regular force, 419,000 regular reserve, and 101,400 law enforcement Gendarmerie), the French Armed Forces constitutes the largest military in the European Union and the 12th largest in the world by number of troops. The French Armed Forces however have the 3rd highest expenditure of any military in the world, as well as the 3rd largest nuclear force in the world, only behind the United Statesmarker and Russiamarker.

International stance

French military doctrine is based on the concepts of national independence, nuclear deterrence (see Force de frappe), and military self-sufficiency. Francemarker is a charter member of NATOmarker, and has worked actively with its allies to adapt NATO — internally and externally — to the post-Cold War environment. In December 1995, France announced that it would increase its participation in NATO's military wing, including the Military Committee (France withdrew from NATO's military bodies in 1966 whilst remaining full participants in the Organisation's political Councils). France remains a firm supporter of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and other cooperative efforts. Parismarker hosted the May 1997 NATO-Russia Summit which sought the signing of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security.

Outside of NATO, France has actively and heavily participated in both coalition and unilateral peacekeeping efforts in Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans, frequently taking a lead role in these operations. France has undertaken a major restructuring to develop a professional military that will be smaller, more rapidly deployable, and better tailored for operations outside of mainland France. Key elements of the restructuring include: reducing personnel, bases and headquarters, and rationalistion of equipment and the armaments industry.

Since the end of the Cold War, France has placed a high priority on arms control and non-proliferation. French Nuclear testing in the Pacificmarker, and the Sinking of the Rainbow Warriormarker strained French relations with its Allies, South Pacific states (namely New Zealandmarker), and world opinion. France agreed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1992 and supported its indefinite extension in 1995. After conducting a controversial final series of six nuclear tests on Mururoa in the South Pacificmarker, the French signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996. Since then, France has implemented a moratorium on the production, export, and use of anti-personnel landmines and supports negotiations leading toward a universal ban. The French are key players in the adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe to the new strategic environment.

France remains an active participant in: the major programs to restrict the transfer of technologies that could lead to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction: the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group (for chemical and biological weapons), and the Missile Technology Control Regime. France has also signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.

2008 reforms

On 31 July 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered M. Jean-Claude Mallet, a member of the Council of State, to head up a thirty-five member commission charged with a wide-ranging review of French defence. The commission issued its White Paper in early 2008.. Acting upon its recommendations, President Sarkozy began making radical changes in French defence policy and structures starting in the summer of 2008. In keeping with post-Cold War changes in European politics and power structures, the French military's traditional focus on territorial defence will be redirected to meet the challenges of a global threat environment. Under the reorganisation, the identification and destruction of terrorist networks both in metropolitan France and in francophone Africa will be the primary task of the French military. Redundant military bases will be closed and new weapons systems projects put on hold to finance the restructuring and global deployment of intervention forces. In a historic change, Sarkozy furthermore has declared that France "will now participate fully in NATOmarker," four decades after former French president General Charles de Gaulle withdrew from the alliance's command structure and ordered American troops off French soil.

Recent operations

[[File:Recent OPEX.svg|thumb|upright=2.0|Recent OPEX:

- Operation Licorne in Côte d'Ivoiremarker (under UN mandate)

- Contribution to the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti

- International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistanmarker (under UN mandate)

- Contribution to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon; Opération Baliste]]There are currently 36,000 French troops deployed in foreign territories - such operations are known as "OPEX" for Opérations Extérieures ("External Operations").

Along with the United Statesmarker and other countries, France provides troops for the United Nations force stationed in Haitimarker following the 2004 Haiti rebellion. France has sent troops, especially special forces, into Afghanistanmarker to help the United States and NATO forces fight the remains of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In Opération Licorne a force of a few thousand French soldiers is stationed in Côte d'Ivoiremarker (Ivory Coast) on a UN peacekeeping mission. These troops were initially sent under the terms of a mutual protection pact between France and the Côte d'Ivoire, but the mission has since evolved into the current UN peacekeeping operation. The French Armed Forces have also played a leading role in the ongoing UN peacekeeping mission along the Lebanonmarker-Israelmarker border as part of the cease-fire agreement that brought the 2006 Lebanon War to an end. Currently, France has 2,000 army personnel deployed along the border, including infantry, armour, artillery and air defence. There are also naval and air personnel deployed offshore.

The French Joint Force and Training Headquarters (L'Etat-Major Interarmees de Force et d'Entrainment) at Air Base 110 near Creilmarker maintains the ability to command a medium or large-scale international operation, and runs exercises .


The titular head of the French armed forces is the President of the Republic, in his role as Chef des Armées — the President is thus Commander-in-Chief of French forces. However, the Constitution puts civil and military government forces at the disposal of the government (the executive cabinet of ministers, who are not necessarily of the same political side as the president). The Minister of Defence (as of 2007, Hervé Morin) oversees the military's funding, procurement and operations.

The Frenchmarker armed forces are divided into four branches:
  • Army (Armée de Terre), including:
    • Infantry (Infanterie)
    • Armoured Cavalry (Arme Blindée Cavalerie)
    • Artillery (Artillerie)
    • Foreign Legion (infantry, cavalry, engineers)
    • Troupes de marine (Marines) (infantry, cavalry, paratroopers, artillery)
    • Army Light Aviation (Aviation Légére de l'Armée de Terre - ALAT)
    • Engineers (Génie) including the Paris Fire Brigade
    • Signals (Transmissions)
    • Transport and logistics (Train)
    • Supply (Matériel)
  • Navy (Marine Nationale), including:
  • Air Force (Armée de l'Air) including
  • Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale), a military police force which serves for the most part as a rural and general purpose police force. In 2009 this force will quit the ministry of defence to fully join the ministry of interior (police).

It also include the following services:


The total number of military personnel is approximately 359,000, although approximately 100,000 of these are in the Gendarmerie and, thus, used in everyday law enforcement operations within France (elements of the Gendarmerie are, however, present in all French external operations, providing specialised law enforcement troops/military police).

Historically, France relied a great deal on conscription to provide manpower for its military, in addition to a minority of professional career soldiers. Following the Algerian War, the use of non-volunteer draftees in foreign operations was ended; if their unit was called up for duty in war zones, draftees were offered the choice between requesting a transfer to another unit or volunteering for the active mission. In 1996, President Jacques Chirac's government announced the end of conscription and in 2001, conscription formally was ended. Young people must still, however, register for possible conscription (should the situation call for it). A recent change is that women must now register as well.


See also


  1. Que dit le Livre blanc sur les accords de défense ?, Ministry of Defence
  2. Official Presidential Website, Letter of Engagement to M. Jean-Claude Mallet, 31 July 2007
  3. Jim Hoagland, "France's Whirlwind of Change", Real Clear Politics, 18 June 2008[1]

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