Monday, April 24, 2017

NATO and France's Election

After the first round of elections in France, one thing is clear: the French people are tired of the establishment. Both candidates that will participate in the May 7th run-off election, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, have a vastly different future in mind for France. It is widely reported on what both candidates feel about the European Union. However, the two also have different opinions on whether or not France should stay in NATO. Le Pen believes that NATO, like the EU, is obsolete and is planning a ‘Frexit’. Macron wants to stay in both. Both candidates offer a different future for France as well as NATO.

Marine Le Pen is the furthest right-winged candidate in this election. Le Pen has targeted a group of French people who are tired of the status quo. Part of that status quo is France’s NATO membership. She recently condemned Donald Trump for reversing his stance on NATO. In an interview she stated, “He [Trump] said that he would not be the policeman of the world… but it seems today that he has changed his mind.” A significant portion of France’s population (21.43%) voted for Le Pen in the first election. While Le Pen most likely will not win the second election, it shows how the French people feel about NATO.

Emmanuel Macron is expected to be the next president of France. Macron is pro-NATO, but the majority those who ran for the French presidency were not. Macron’s apparent win shows that for now France will likely remain in NATO. However, with dissatisfaction of NATO growing in the country, it is hard to predict what will happen in the next French election. If the French people continue to be dissatisfied with NATO, candidates like Le Pen may continue to gain prominence.

If the United States and other NATO powers want France to stay, they must address the problem France has with NATO. Le Pen has said, “I consider that France does not have to submit to the calendar of the United States, so I want France to leave the integrated command of NATO.” If NATO wants France to stay, it’s obvious that they will have to share control better. It is questionable whether other NATO powers will go for this, such as the United States, however NATO will need to balance its members in risk of becoming actually obsolete.

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