General Dominique Trinquand, the former head of France’s military mission to the UN and NATO, who specializes in crisis management and peacekeeping operations, told Sputnik France what the top foreign policy priorities are for the new French President: European defense, relations with NATO and Moscow, and the country’s military operations.
General Dominique Trinquand, the former head of France’s military mission to the UN and NATO, who is currently a specialist in crisis management and peacekeeping operations, was recently a guest of Rachel Marsden’s show Le Clash (Clash) on Sputnik France.
General Trinquand has been one of newly-elected President Macron’s defense consultants for half a year. He told Sputnik about the President’s top foreign policy priorities, namely European defense, the country’s relationship with NATO and Moscow, and French foreign military operations, such as Operation Barkhane in Africa and “Opération Sentinelle” (Sentinel Operation).
On European Defense
“The issue of European defense is not about the setup of the European armed forces but about military coordination at the European level in three major spheres: air transportation, satellite-referenced aids and budgeting and financing,” General Trinquand told Sputnik.
The sphere of air transportation and air logistics should be common for all the EU countries, he explained, because France simply does not have the means to go it alone in this particular sphere.
Regarding satellite-referenced aids and means of control, it is about the setup of the European military command center in Brussels. The unit would command three existing EU military training missions in Mali, Somalia and the Central African Republic. In future, it could be running missions aimed at peace-building and disarmament. General Trinquand called it a miracle that the UK has backed the plans to set up such a unit amid speculations that it could be a rival to NATO.
The third sphere is common budgeting and financing, including the allocation of means for various research studies and developments.
Relations with NATO
“Ever since France returned to NATO (in 2009, after its full withdrawal during the presidency of Charles de Gaulle in 1966) I have been responsible for cooperation with other European countries. These countries have started listening to us. It is very important for President Macron to remain a NATO member state while further developing the European Union, as NATO, for example, does not oversee an operation in Mali,” General Trinquand told Sputnik.
Regarding the cooperation with the armies of other European countries, he noted that France does not want to make them the clones of the French army, as each country has its own traditions and methods of operation. They all should complement one another to further strengthen Europe.
“President Macron has found very good words to voice the position of France: we are located between Moscow and Washington. It is an old de Gaullist (the follower of Charles de Gaulle) tradition which was later adopted by President Mitterrand,” General Trinquand told Sputnik.
He further explained that France is equally distanced from the two countries. However Russia is a European state and should be engaged in a dialogue, should be worked with, as it has common interests with France and common problems which must be solved.
Macron’s Top Priorities
General Trinquand explained that there have been very sharp electoral urges made during the presidential campaign: to leave NATO, to leave the European Union. Emmanuel Macron, however, defended the union and the alliance.
The general also said that even though the new French President is quite young and has not served in the army as did some older French politicians, he is very serious about the military issues of his home country and has clearly voiced his position. It is being manifested in details that he is not afraid of words. He has renamed the country’s Defense Ministry the Armed Forces Ministry. And has driven along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in a Command car and not in a closed vehicle and has made his first visit after his inauguration to a military hospital in the Paris suburb of Clamart.
“As you know, I have been working on the defense program of President Macron long before he was elected president, when he was still a candidate. I was amazed with how seriously he regards all the military and defense issues,” General Trinquand noted.
He also pointed out that President Macron is currently on his first official visit outside Europe and it is to the West African country of Mali. The French leader has already visited French troops fighting armed groups in this West African country.
At the end of his first week in office, Macron flew into Gao, a city in Mali’s north, where political unrest and ethnic strife have raged for more than five years.
“So, I think that he has settled well into his role of the Commander-in-Chief. As a serviceman, I can tell you that he is quite lucky to have such an Armed Forces Headquarters, which has proved its high efficiency. He is working with top professionals,” General Trinquand said.
President Macron has also been quite clear about French foreign military operations, General Trinquand noted. He said that the operations against jihadists remain very important and France will keep its presence in the Middle East, it will continue its ongoing anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane in Africa.
“To my mind, he has taken up position of a President who knows that his country is under a real threat and the main thing is to stave off this threat from his people,” General Trinquand said.
General Trinquand also commented on the recent appointment of 22 ministers in the new government of France’s new Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, and particularly on the appointment of Sylvie Goulard as the country’s Armed Forces Minister.
Even though she is not very familiar with this sphere, the general said, she has good knowledge of European Affairs and is a good administrator. She knows that there is not enough development in the European defense and there is a lot to be done. Probably this is the reason why she has been appointed to this post, even though she nearly became the country’s Prime Minister, the general finally stated.