During his speech to MEPs on Wednesday, January 19th, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke of the need for the European Union to establish its own security pact with Russia, considering the tensions between Russia and Ukraine. These remarks have raised some questions and concerns on the part of some experts: is Emmanuel Macron trying to distance himself from the United States on this issue and to push Europe to adopt an independent position?
In his greetings to the armed forces delivered on the same day in Haguenau, Alsace, Emmanuel Macron made a point of clarifying things. He mentioned the “ability [of France] to go further, and within the framework of NATO to commit ourselves to new missions, in order to take all our responsibilities in EFP (Enhanced Forward Presence) type missions, in particular in Romania if they were decided.” Such a proposal was also mentioned on Thursday evening, January 20th, by Defense Minister Florence Parly in her opening speech. Macron’s objective would therefore be to strengthen solidarity among NATO member countries in the face of Moscow.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis immediately welcomed Emmanuel Macron’s statement and assured France of Romania’s willing cooperation in strengthening the strategic partnership on the eastern flank in the Black Sea region. France and Romania have been united by a strategic partnership since 2008.
A request of this type was already made by Romania to the Americans in October 2021. Romania has been a member of NATO since 2004 and already has about 1,000 American soldiers on its territory. It has also said it is ready to receive more American soldiers, which was confirmed by U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday, January 19th. He said that Washington “would indeed increase the presence of troops in Poland, Romania, and other countries if [the Russian President] were to act, because we have an Article 5 obligation to defend those countries because they are members of NATO.”
For the time being, EFP battalions are stationed in Poland (where a Romanian detachment is regularly deployed) and in the three Baltic states. According to Der Spiegel, Romania and Bulgaria could be the next two countries to host units in the framework of the Enhanced Forward Presence.
Edouard Simon, director of security and defense research at the Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques (IRIS), analyzed Emmanuel Macron’s statement regarding Romania as follows: “This is a message we are sending to Romania, which is rather francophile and has rather difficult relations with Russia.” By revealing his intentions to send French troops to Romania, Macron demonstrates his support for a country that is traditionally close to the heart of France and that might feel Russian pressure in the event of conflict on the Eastern front.
A joint multinational exercise has been announced for Romania in mid-2022. This is the search and rescue management information system (SARMIS) 2022 exercise, which aims to improve interoperability among NATO allies.
Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).