Nicolas Sarkozy: Peace and stability can only come from strength and friendship

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The Independent Online

The crises hitting the world affect our values, our interests and the security of the French. To address them, we need three things: strong diplomacy, strong defence and a strong Europe. And, I might add, reliable allies.

Strong diplomacy, this means a France accepting the consequences of what she is and committing herself. In the world of "relative powers", no state can on its own impose its point of view. None. And co-operation and solidarity are the cornerstones of its action. And France knows who her allies and friends are: and I'm not afraid of saying that our allies and our friends are first and foremost the family of Western nations.

I don't believe that the role of a major responsible power like France is to be halfway between everyone else, since that means France is nowhere. I readily accept that this point is controversial, but I think her independence depends first of all on knowing where her family is and that her family has no doubts about you.

Secondly, strong defence: modern armed and security forces, tailored to the current threats. Our armed forces must have the long-term certainty of possessing capabilities commensurate with our ambition. To be strong, our defence has to be independent: so we will equip ourselves with autonomous intelligence and early-warning capabilities, cyber defence capabilities and projection forces whose equipment doesn't date, as is sometimes the case, from the '80s, not to say the '70s.

Building Defence and Security Europe is an absolute priority. Europe has to assert herself as it did last summer in the Georgia crisis. To those who defend national independence, I'd like to compare what Europe did in the case of Georgia with that of Bosnia. I'm not insulting anyone by saying that the Bosnian problem was in the first place resolved by American forces and that the Georgia problem was in the first place resolved by Europe's policy. To my mind, this counts.

Europe is faced with a simple choice: does Europe want to be left in peace or does Europe want peace? We know what becomes of continents and countries whose sole ambition is to be left in peace: one day, they see the return of war. And France has had bitter experience of the "leave us in peace" maxim.

This is an edited extract from a speech given by the French president last week on rejoining the Nato Command