A NATO History Lesson

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The March 12 news story "After 43 Years, France to Rejoin NATO as Full Member" said that in 1966, when French President Charles de Gaulle withdrew France from NATO's integrated military command structure, he "ordered out thousands of U.S. troops stationed on French soil and at NATO headquarters, then in a Paris suburb."

What de Gaulle actually did was to request that the NATO headquarters related to the integrated military structure be removed from French soil. It is not true that he ordered out U.S. troops. In fact, U.S. forces were then in France under bilateral agreements. The decision to withdraw the troops from France was a unilateral American decision, made as a gesture of disapproval of France's withdrawal from the NATO integrated military structure.

France's withdrawal reflected its dissatisfaction with what it viewed as American intransigence over command-and-control issues. In recent years, these issues reemerged in connection with negotiations to bring France back into the integrated structure.

It is interesting to note that France participated more often in NATO military exercises after withdrawing from the integrated military structure than it had participated before then.

-- Pierre Rahal


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