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“Security, our joint mission”

“Security, our joint mission”

Published on February 4, 2009
Joint article by M. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, and Mrs Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, published in "Le Monde" newspaper

Paris, 4 February 2009

“Security, our joint mission”

Nearly three centuries ago, Liebnitz and Voltaire, a German and a Frenchman, pondered what the “best of all worlds” might be. Today, the Security Conference, which we will attend together in Germany on Saturday, 7 February, will give us an opportunity to set out our ideas on the conditions governing our collective security and looking ahead to the Atlantic Alliance’s sixtieth anniversary summit, which we will co-host in Strasbourg and in Kehl, Germany.

The events of the past few months raise concerns. A context of insecurity is developing. The war in the Caucasus was the first military conflict of this century in Europe. At the beginning of this year, the clashes between Israel and Hamas reminded us of the instability of the Middle East. There is still no progress in resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis. Terrorist attacks continue, as does the violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan and do the clashes in Africa, in the Congo and Sudan. And this comes against a backdrop of turbulence engendered by the crises in financial markets and in the global economy, as well as the challenge of climate change.

A concerted security policy is absolutely necessary. For us, it is clear that our security policy must be defined more broadly. Beyond strictly military questions, it must take into account the international financial situation, energy supplies and migration issues. We must adapt our concepts: in order to address the crises and conflicts, we need a global approach, increasingly solid and stable partnerships, and flexible tools. Nowadays no country is capable of resolving the world’s problems on its own. Alliances based on common values, such as the European Union and NATO, are gaining in importance. The more the network of our partnerships develops and our political, economic and military capabilities and ability to provide development aid are pooled, the better our security will be guaranteed and the greater will be our chances of successfully resolving crises.

This firm belief underpins our security policy, the one we are developing through ever closer Franco-German cooperation and within the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance. These three dimensions mutually strengthen each other. We are convinced that it is in our interest to make European integration and the Atlantic partnership the two faces of the same security policy.

In the past ten years, substantial progress has been made by the European Union, which has developed its Common Foreign and Security Policy. This progress, we stress, strengthens the transatlantic security partnership and the Atlantic Alliance. Our American partners are increasingly understanding this. For Germany and France, confronted with the current challenges, Europe needs the United States just as the United States needs a strong European partner.

Western Europe has known 60 years of peace and freedom – and today this is the case almost all over Europe. We owe them, of course, to our determination, but also to the United States. An America who has remained at our side and has committed itself in support of a free and democratic Europe. Faced with the risks of the twenty-first century, the transatlantic security and defence partnership needs to be strengthened and tailored to the new challenges. This involves together analysing the situations, taking joint decisions and implementing them in the same spirit of partnership. Indeed unilateral decision-making would be at odds with this new spirit of our relations.

And we, Europeans, we must speak more with a strong united voice, which demands from Member States a high degree of cohesion in the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Similarly, we must increase and pool our military and civilian capabilities, in pursuit of a forward-looking policy for Europe’s security. The synergy of the two is a hallmark of the European security policy. During the French EU presidency, major advances were achieved, particularly thanks to the impetus injected by Germany and France. The European Union will in future be a stronger partner for the United States.

We have also decided on a new step forward in our bilateral military cooperation. The Franco-German Brigade, which has been deployed with our partners in the Balkans and Afghanistan, will now be stationed in our two countries: France is going to host one of this brigade’s German units permanently on her soil. After the tragedies of our common history, everyone will understand the historic significance of this new step in Franco-German friendship.

For the first time in the Atlantic Alliance’s history, two countries, our two countries, are inviting their allies to a summit, its 60th anniversary summit on 3 and 4 April. This is a strong symbol of a Franco-German friendship furthering peace and security. It’s also the symbol of a now united and free Europe.

We want this Alliance summit to be the occasion for strategic debates and translating them into political choices. The idea is not to reinvent the Alliance’s fundamental principles, those of the Washington Treaty, and the community of values and solidarity uniting us. It is, as we have already successfully done in the past, to have an unblinkered debate in order to give new guidelines to and credibly transform the Alliance. This is what we did in 1991 and 1999, by redefining our strategic concepts.

We need to review the way we tackle the new threats, our partnerships and our structures. Germany and France expect the Strasbourg/Kehl summit to launch the discussions on a new "strategic concept".

To address the demands of the future, we think it necessary to make headway in several key spheres.


To our great regret, the "strategic partnership" between NATO and the EU is not living up to our expectations, because of persistent disagreements between some nations. We think this has to change. We must move towards genuine cooperation, based on their necessary complementarity.


Today, for our common security, the Alliance is engaged in several out-of-area operations, particularly in the Balkans – in Bosnia and Kosovo – and Afghanistan.

60 years after the founding of NATO, the commitment to assist an ally under armed attack, flowing from article 5 of the Washington Treaty, still constitutes the very essence of the Alliance. We drew further consequences of this after the terrorist attacks of 11 September. In order to fight terrorism, we are engaged with our allies in Afghanistan. Since this is one of the twenty-first century’s new threats.

Our soldiers are exposed to the greatest risks in these operations, especially in Afghanistan. Other young men and women, contributing to the reconstruction efforts, are also victims of a terrorism which disregards human dignity. Be that as it may, we expect the Strasbourg/Kehl summit to signal that the Alliance will remain committed, for its security and values. Our goal remains to establish a level of security allowing the country’s reconstruction, in line with the Afghans’ wishes, so that global terrorism can no longer develop its bases there. We know too that the strengthening of democracy must go alongside the military effort. The political approaches must also be debated with our Alliance partners.


The war in Georgia, in summer 2008, marked a turning point. The European Union succeeded in halting the spiral of violence and creating the conditions for a settlement process. But recourse to military force, and the unilateral recognition, contrary to internal law, of South Osssetia and Abkhazia, have created a problem of confidence with Russia.

Russia remains our neighbour and a very important partner. We have not reverted to the time of the Cold War. Those who claim we have are wrong since the USSR no longer exists. We intend to restore and develop trustful and fruitful relations with Russia. Our alliance is a defensive alliance whose sole ambition is our common security in the face of today’s threats. But we are also entitled to expect Russia to show her respect for the standards and rules she helped establish through the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter in 1990: territorial integrity, inviolability of borders, respect and equality within the Euro-Atlantic area.

This is the basis on which the vast majority of Europe’s nations have wanted to join NATO and the EU. This enlargement is a key factor in the continent’s security and stability. Russia has for a long time, admittedly without euphoria, gone along constructively with this process.

The Strasbourg-Kehl summit will give us the opportunity to discuss this again. Wanting to join NATO is the free choice of the European countries, independent and free democracies. This desire reflects a trust we have no right to disappoint. But we draw attention to the existence of criteria for becoming a member of the Alliance; it means first of all being capable of taking on the heavy responsibilities, making a real contribution to the allies’ security and sharing their values. Similarly, the enlargement has to contribute to the continent’s stability and security, which benefits Russia too. Here, cooperation in the NATO/Russia Council plays an essential role.

In summer 2008, President Dmitri Medvedev made proposals on European security. We are ready to debate these issues, with our allies, and with our European partners, and to consider everyone’s points of view. By doing so, we shall reiterate our confidence and commitment to the EU, NATO and the OSCE, to the tried and tested European standards underpinning our security, to the arms control and disarmament regime, and transatlantic cooperation. But we also call for reaching out to Russia and reviving our cooperation in the NATO-Russia Council and between the EU and Russia, if she so wishes. We want a closer political and security dialogue between the EU and Russia, enabling her to play a more proactive role in the Euro-Atlantic security area. We hope that a constructive spirit will prevail in these discussions. The reactivation of the US-Russian strategic dialogue, which we welcome, should also contribute to it.


The military nature of the Atlantic Alliance means that its members have to ensure that they have exactly the right military capabilities for their security imperatives and the missions they take on. The Strasbourg-Kehl will also be the opportunity to discuss this. We need, especially in Europe, more modern, effective and interoperable military capabilities.

In addition, we shall discuss issues relating to the deployment of missile defence systems in the face of the limited ballistic threats emanating from the Middle East. So we think that Russia has to be involved in these discussions in a spirit of cooperation and transparency, as the United States has proposed. This dialogue will also have to be pursued in the NATO-Russia Council.

We are both advocates of arms control. Members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Germany and France support the global non-proliferation and disarmament efforts. In 2008, at our initiative, the EU adopted ambitious plans to combat proliferation and promote global nuclear disarmament, in accordance with the NPT. We are nevertheless convinced that a responsible security policy, taking on board the future risks, must retain nuclear deterrence for the foreseeable future. Its principal objective is strictly defensive and is still to prevent war. These days, it is no longer necessary to retain enormous arsenals and the goal has to be a level of strict sufficiency.

We support the resumption of the discussions between the United States and Russia on the treaty on reducing their strategic nuclear arsenals (Start). Germany and France hope that concrete results will be achieved in the next few months. Similarly, we welcome the American commitment on ratifying the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and in favour of launching negotiations on banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Finally, we support the efforts deployed to safeguard the regime for limiting conventional forces in Europe. The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty remains a pillar of European security. Through our dialogue with Russia, we wish to create the conditions for ratifying the modified CFE Treaty. A rapid solution could for example be found for the Transnistria issue so as to create a different atmosphere. That would be a major step towards the entry into force of a regime, guaranteed by the Alliance, for limiting conventional arms in Europe, one which would bring us all, Russia like us, greater security.

Finally we call for a stronger non-proliferation regime. Today it faces the greatest challenge of its history: the Iranian nuclear programme. Tehran is openly banking on the absence of international reaction to what it is doing. We will not allow Iran access to nuclear weapons, since that would be a serious threat to world peace. We are counting on a diplomatic solution. And to address this major challenge, we are ready for a dialogue, which the United States commitment is strengthening, and for new very firm sanctions.

Two weeks ago, the forty-fourth president of the United States took office. The Barack Obama presidency is already marked by new foreign and security policy priorities. A great many Europeans are expecting a lot from this change: Barack Obama certainly expects as much from us. We are looking forward to cooperating with him and are convinced that thanks to the Euro-Atlantic security partnership we will be able to confront together the risks and threats to which we are exposed. It is by working in a spirit of confidence, acting proactively and unitedly, that we will build, if not the "best of all worlds" a world bringing greater peace and security for everyone./.

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