From CHARLES FENYVESI in Paris
"DE GAULLE wants to 4-# have his cake and eat it too." This is how a Frenchman explained to me the other day the General's decision to withdraw from NATO. "The funny part of it is that he is going to be able to do it. What's more, he will succeed in forcing the Anglo-Saxons to go along his way."
What my Frenchman meant Was that President Charles de Gaulle would not pay what is, to him, the "impossible" price of NATO protection—"a subordination of sovereignty" to a unified Western command. He knows it full well that France will be defended anyway. with or without its NATO membership card.
De Gaulle can order the liquidation of American and Canadian bases in France. He can withdraw French forces from under joint command. And his actions may necessitate the costly transference of NATO Headquarters and communication lines from Rocquencourt to one of the Benelux countries.
Yet there could be no question in Washington or in London of leaving France alone in case of an attack on its territory. Whether or not it will continue to form a link in the chain of Western defence, France, as the "heartland of Europe". will remain under the "umbrella" provided by the Alliance.
The General runs no risks in this latest exercise of his in "standing up to the AngloSaxons". What remains unclear is the advantages he expects to gain this time.
IT HAS BEEN obvious for some years now that de Gaulle disapproves of the integration of the member-nations' national forces under one common plan. "If in a country like France," he said as early as in 1959, "it should happen that war has to be declared, the war should be France's war."
"Certainly, it is indispensable," he said in 1961, "that the Great Powers of the West should prepare together the action of their forces, and, eventually, unify their war efforts. But in this concert, in this preparation and unification, France must keep its will, its character and its army to itself."
Thus de Gaulle's decision to withdraw from NATO surprised nobody here. His move has nevertheless given rise to a spate of speculations concerning the motives and the timing of his move.
• The explanation the middleof-the-road daily Le Monde offered is the one which is perhaps the most widely accepted in France. Under the title "Sovereignty against Integra
Lion", an editorial suggested that the controversy over NATO had "a quasi-philosophical character".
While the Americans subscribe to the notion of the unity of Western defence and consider an integrated command as the only efficient solution for the nuclear age, de Gaulle maintains that in the disguise of this supra-national ideology, the Americans ensure their hegemony in the Alliance.
As it is only too well-known, de Gaulle has nothing but contempt for ideologies, which he believes are there to mask the real and ubiquitous ambitions of nationalism. For de Gaulle, the principal political reality is the nation and the essence of nationhood lies in its sovereignty.
IN CONCRETE TERMS, all this comes down to something rather simple: "It is insupportable for him," concludes Le Monde, "to have a single Frenchman receiving orders from a foreign officer."
But not all the commentaries
have attributed such refined notions to de Gaulle.
Right-wing daily Combat says that de Gaulle has now endorsed the foreign policy of the far left. This paper accuses the General of attacking the Atlantic Alliance because he intends to capture votes from the Left in next year's parliamentary elections.
The French left, although opposed to de Gaulle on every other issue, warmly welcomed the General's decision as "a step in the right direction". De Gaulle's two chief opponents in the recent presidential elections, left-wing candidate Francois Mitterrand and centrist Jean Lecanuet condemned de Gaulle's move as wrecking Western solidarity and the chances of European unity. WHAT HAS STRUCK many observers as significant is the fact that de Gaulle's announcement of the decision to leave NATO—which had been bruited about for quite some time—should have come three months before his departure for a State visit in the U.S.S.R. With de Gaulle, it is known that there are no coincidences ; everything is planned down to the smallest detail. What has he in mind this time?
Is he going to replace NATO's guarantee of France's territorial integrity with a nonaggression pact with Russia? Then how would his allies react?
The question of a nonaggression pact—which many observers consider likely—lies in the forefront of attention here. There are many references one hears these days to a Franco-Russian entente directed against Germany. Such an arrangement, it is argued, would re-establish something like the traditional European balance of power—and the concept of equilibrium is a favourite subject of de Gaulle's.
Then, of course, such an entente has historical antece GAULLISTS RESPOND to these speculations by repeating the General's statements on his continuing loyalty to the Atlantic Alliance. "The fact that France has chosen her own strategic solution for her
dents and the logic of two world wars behind it—and de Gaulle, as everybody knows, thinks in terms of history.
Others consider such a course impossible: wasn't it de Gaulle, they say, who was largely responsible for a spectacular Franco-German reconciliation? Did he not have a great, emotion-packed tour of Germany, full of high drama, tears and pledges to eternal friendship? self does not mean that she has ceased having confidence in her allies," commented Lucienne Hubert-Rodier in the Gaullist house-organ La Nation.
"On the contrary ; she has not only remained faithful to the Atlantic Alliance but she has found the means of its reinforcement in replacing the subordination of her armed forces with co-ordination with other members of the Alliance."
Many Frenchmen, and not only Gaullists, feel that the structure of NATO is antiquated, that it reflects the conditions prevailing ten or fifteen years ago and that the reliance of American power is excessive.
Although the acceptance of de Gaulle's policy of "going alone" is restricted almost exclusively to Gaullists, the General's assertion of France's independence against the "Anglo-Saxon hegemony" represents a popular cause. France should have more power to make decisions and his status in the Atlantic Alliance should be at least similar to Great Britain's—this opinion can be said to represent the consensus here.
Another argument which is often advanced in France claims that the U.S. itself has lost much of its interest in NATO and that American attention has shifted away from containing Russia in Europe to fighting the Chinese in Asia.
It is indeed hardly a matter of dispute any more that the focus of instability in the world lies no longer in Europe—as it did for more than a decade after World War II—but in Asia. Clearly, the threat to peace represented by Communist China today is much more serious than the Soviet menace over Western Europe.
Then hasn't NATO lost much of its relevance? Isn't de Gaulle right in wanting to replace NATO with a series of bilateral agreements?
THESE ARE THE QUESTIONS formed by Frenchmen representing a wide spectrum of political opinions. And despite the unanimous opposition to the General's ideas by the other fourteen members of NATO, the prevailing sentiment in France is that there is a great deal of truth in what de Gaulle says about NATO's losing its raison (Terre. The criticisms enter elsewhere : de Gaulle should not turn his back to Europe.
"You may raise objections to his style and there might be better ways of handling such an affair," a normally antiGaullist intellectual told me, "but the General may prove to be right in calling for a thorough revision of the Western Alliance."