“In terms of the defence relationship, Sarkozy was a gift to us,” said a British official.
Fears that Sarkozy’s replacement by socialist Francois Hollande would undermine the entente have proved unfounded.
“Everyone was nervous when Sarkozy left. Sarkozy and Cameron really had camaraderie. But the politics is to all intents and purposes unchanged. The goodwill is still there,” the British official said.
France and Britain played leading roles, along with the United States, in the 2011 NATO aerial campaign over Libya.
“Libya was their first conflict since the return to NATO military structures and they found it quite helpful. It was quite a formative experience for them,” said a NATO diplomat.
“OTHERS GETTING BIGGER”
European economic woes are even deeper now than in 2010, when Britain began cutting defence spending to the current level of about $52 billion, a similar budget to France’s.
China, India and other emerging powers are increasing defence spending. The United States has made clear it is fed up with picking up much of the tab for European security and has demanded its allies do more as it pivots towards Asia.