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NATO commemoration, Kiev, Ukraine. Photo credit: Marjan Blan

US study laments ‘limited’ capacities of French army against Russia

In the scenario of a confrontation between Russia and NATO in Europe, France would be a strong ally, but quickly overwhelmed Americans believe.

Published: July 3, 2021, 12:40 pm

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    What if a conflict breaks out in Europe, between NATO member countries and Russia? What could the French army do? This is the likely scenario that the Rand Corporation, an American think tank, has researched. French weekly Le Point reported on the observations pointing to the strengths and weaknesses of France’s armed forces, concluding that they would however be quickly overwhelmed in the event of a conventional (non-nuclear) war to defend a Baltic state against “Russian aggression”.

    “France could support a US-led war effort in Eastern Europe now or in the next ten years. It has maintained full-spectrum capabilities and training, has ambitious modernization objectives, and has strong political and public support for military interventions and support to allies,” stated the report. But behind this flattering introduction, it points to the “limited capabilities” of the French army.

    The study deplored a “lack of depth”, that is to say the inability of the French military to pursue a sustained effort over the long term, despite their wide range of skills which allows them to accomplish almost any mission.

    In particular, deficits in the air transport of troops, an insufficient stock of ammunition, and the recurring unavailability of combat helicopters as well as problems in “reassigning” heavy ground forces and artillery or special operations forces were deplored.

    “Capability areas that might benefit from collaboration include electronic warfare; the countering of massed precision fires; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems; air defenses; and the hardening of advanced technologies,” currently ill-suited to long-range strikes. “Deploying additional forces in Eastern Europe in significant numbers would very likely require withdrawing assets from current missions,” the Rand Corporation underscored.

    Consequently, the think tank recommended the preventive deployment of significant means on the part of NATO in the areas to be defended: armored vehicles, artillery, drones, ammunition, anti-tank and anti-aircraft devices of all types.

    It should be noted, however, that the figures used for the study date from 2018, while the 2019-2025 military programme reinforced the army budget. For several months already, the French have been preparing for a future “high intensity conflict” in Eastern Europe, a prospect which, according to several experts, could happen within ten years.

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