THEY may not always see eye to eye, but when it comes to defence, the interests of France and Britain converge. The two countries are respectively the third and fourth biggest military spenders in the world. Both see themselves as global players, ready and willing to project expeditionary force. But fiscal austerity has threatened the ability of both to live up to those grandiose ambitions. Only by working much more closely together, they have concluded, can two medium-sized European countries hope to stay in the great-power game. Hence the 50-year defence and security co-operation treaty signed this week in London by David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy.


The main items in the pact are a combined joint expeditionary force and an agreement to operate aircraft-carrier strike groups using aircraft and escort vessels contributed by both countries. But much of the treaty deals with less glamorous equipment and capabilities. Training and maintenance for the new A400M transport aircraft that the two nations are buying will be pooled. Britain is keen to share its new A300-based aerial tankers, if a financial deal to do so can be reached.


The two countries will jointly develop nuclear-submarine technologies, satellite communications and maritime-mine countermeasures. The big defence industries of both will be encouraged to co-operate on the next generation of surveillance drones and assorted new missiles, with the aim of forging a single prime European contractor for “complex weapons”.


Most dramatically, a separate treaty has been signed on nuclear co-operation. This is remarkable, given the different approaches that France and Britain have taken towards their nuclear deterrents (Britain depends heavily on American kit, while France’s force de frappe is a supreme symbol of national sovereignty). With the blessing of the United States, Britain’s Aldermaston research establishment will concentrate on developing technology, while its French counterpart at Valduc will carry out simulated warhead testing.


Predictably, there was much harrumphing in Britain’s jingoistic popular press. A few retired politicians were dragged out to reminisce about slights suffered at the hands of the perfidious Frogs. The reaction in France was more muted, perhaps because the agreement carefully avoids any of the visionary language about European architectures that excites French imaginations, but which many British Conservatives, such as the defence secretary, Liam Fox, viscerally loathe.

可以预见,在支持强硬外交政策的英国大众媒体上会出现一片不满和反对之声。还会拖出几个退休赋闲的政客来追忆背信弃义的法国佬在过去给英国带来的小小不快。法国的反应则要温和的多,原因也许是该协议小心翼翼地回避了对欧洲架构的预见性表述。只要提起欧洲架构就会激起法国人的想象力,但许多英国保守党人,如国防部长利亚姆·福克斯(Liam Fox)之流,就发自内心地厌恶之。

In fact, most of the objections raised seem either ignorant or anachronistic. Even before France rejoined NATO’s integrated military structure last year, British and French forces had frequently worked and fought together under the command of one or other country. With the exception of the Iraq controversy, the two have rarely found themselves on opposite sides during recent international crises. For example, Britain’s defence secretary during the Falklands war, John Nott, revealed in his memoirs that France had been Britain’s staunchest ally, providing information that helped to render the Exocet anti-ship missiles used by Argentina ineffective, and supplying Mirage and Super-Etendard fighters for British Harrier pilots to pit themselves against in training.

事实上,大多数持反对观点的人似乎要么是无知,要么就是落伍于时代。甚至在法国去年重返北约军事一体化架构之前,英法两国的军队就经常在一个或另一个国家的指挥下一起工作和战斗。除了伊拉克战争的论战之外,两国在最近出现的国际危机中很少出现对立。例如,英国在马岛战争期间的国防部长约翰·诺特(John Nott)就在他的回忆录中透漏,法国在这场冲突中是英国最坚定的盟友,法国提供的情报使阿根廷的飞鱼反舰导弹收效甚微,法国还提供“幻影”和“超军旗”式战斗机供英国的鹞式战斗机飞行员进行对抗训练。 更多信息请访问:

Difficulties could arise, however, over shared use of the two countries’ aircraft carriers, if national priorities and policies do not coincide during future conflicts. One solution would be for Britain not to sell the second carrier it is currently building, which at present seems its likely fate, but to operate it on a timeshare basis with the French. That way it could be made available without caveats to whichever country needed it when its main ship was in refit (a three-year job required every seven years or so). Just don’t call it Trafalgar.