France Preps for Conflict in “Arctic Zone”

24 11 2010

Jean-Marie Collin

27e brigade d'infanterie de montagne

For reasons largely historical, the French presence is very important in the South Pole with different scientific bases and territories like Adelie land and Kerguelen islands. In the Arctic region, France has no territory, thus his presence is very low and only scientific (archipelago of Svalbard, with a permanent research base Jean-Corbel established in 1963). However various elements, shows that now, France is implied in the Arctic and are interested more and more, in the future political, environmental and military of this area

Seen of France, since long years, the Arctic zone appears very far and the reserved domain of the United States, Russia and Canada. However, due to the global warming and the new French position in different political and military organizations (NATO), it’s clear that France want to play a real role in the Arctic region (that’s why President Sarkozy appointed the former Prime Minister Michel Rocard as ambassador of Arctic and Antarctic zone) and will participate directly in this Arctic crisis (if it arrives) both as:

–          NATO member, France will be in the obligation (article 5, North Atlantic Treaty) to react, alongside its allies (Canada, Denmark, Norway, United States), against any military crisis: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them”.

–          Member of the EU, the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty (entered into force on 1st December 2009) strengthens the defense and solidarity links among members of the EU (so between France and Denmark, only EU state to have Arctic territories). The treaty establishes, among Member States two new clauses: A mutual defense clause (article 42.7) in that it states if a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power”. The second clause is the solidarity clause (article 222) is applicable in relation to a crisis within the EU (so in Greenland[1]) if a Member State is the object of a terrorist attack, victim of a natural disasters or a man-made disaster (like an oil spill caused by tanker accidents).

–          Nuclear Weapon State: this area is strategic for the French nuclear deterrence particularly for its submarine component. The Strategic Oceanic Force, comprises four nuclear submarines, though currently only three are operational (Le Triomphant, Le Téméraire, Le Vigilant) deploying nuclear missiles and also includes six Rubis class nuclear attack submarines. The Defense ministry recognized that each year, the French submarines carry out missions in Arctic.

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