Why is a defense effort of 2% of GDP insufficient for France?

Upon his arrival at the Elysée Palace in 2017, the new President Emmanuel Macron made a major effort to bring France's defense effort to 2% of its Gross Domestic Product, as France had committed to in 2014 during the NATO summit in Cardiff. To achieve this, the new executive implemented a new Military Programming Law from 2019 to 2025 aimed at achieving this objective, as well as at repairing the numerous and sometimes dramatic deficiencies from which the French armies suffered after 20 years of under-investment. of a particularly heavy operational activity. This was a paradox for this so-called post-Cold War period, which gave birth to the very controversial doctrine of the “benefits of peace” which led French and European leaders to drastically reduce their respective defense efforts.

To the surprise of the vast majority of specialists on the subject, the executive kept its word, and executed the new LPM with precision, offering the armies new budgetary capacities essential to deal with the innumerable obsolescence from which they suffered. And in fact, in 2022, partly helped by the consequences of the Covid crisis on the national economy, the French defense effort reaches 2% of GDP, ranking France among the good students of NATO in this area. , while many countries are still at much lower levels. However, the methodical study of the needs to be met by the French armies, what is more when the risks of high intensity war in Europe are again very present, show that this objective is very insufficient for France, its armies and its ambitions. In this article, we will study the 3 cumulative reasons why this objective is undersized, but also the reasons why France can support an effort beyond this limit, unlike its European neighbors and allies.

Why this objective of 2% of GDP?

The defense effort target of 2% of GDP seems to represent, for many journalists but especially political leaders, the alpha and omega of a necessary and sufficient defense effort. However, its development was laborious, and was in no way based on a complex analysis of the means required to defend the countries. In preparation for the 2014 NATO summit, alliance leaders were tasked with defining a threshold likely to be accepted by all of its members to increase their defense efforts by 2025. is thus that all the delegations agreed on this 2% threshold, representing in a way the lowest common denominator for European capitals, in order to meet American expectations in order to be able to participate actively in collective defense Europe within the framework of NATO.

In other words, this objective was aimed at allowing the members to equip themselves with armed forces capable of cooperating with the Western armies, and especially with the American military power, while relying on certain key capacities provided precisely by the American forces. , particularly in strategic areas such as logistics, intelligence or space. At no time was there any question of allowing Europeans to acquire an autonomous and independent military power, especially since they had no ambition to do so at the time. Of course, no one forbids Europeans to spend more, and some like the Baltic countries, Greece and Poland have exceeded this objective for several years, out of ambition and sometimes out of necessity, as in the case of Athens. On the other hand, for France, this objective is far from being sufficient, and this because of 3 characteristics inherent in French Defense: its deterrence, its overseas territories, and its ambition to have a format of armies able to act independently.

The additional cost of French deterrence


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