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General de Gaulle's Cold War

General de Gaulle's Cold War: Challenging American Hegemony, 1963-68

Garret Joseph Martin
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 282
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  • Book Info
    General de Gaulle's Cold War
    Book Description:

    The greatest threat to the Western alliance in the 1960s did not come from an enemy, but from an ally. France, led by its mercurial leader General Charles de Gaulle, launched a global and comprehensive challenge to the United State's leadership of the Free World, tackling not only the political but also the military, economic, and monetary spheres. Successive American administrations fretted about de Gaulle, whom they viewed as an irresponsible nationalist at best and a threat to their presence in Europe at worst. Based on extensive international research, this book is an original analysis of France's ambitious grand strategy during the 1960s and why it eventually failed. De Gaulle's failed attempt to overcome the Cold War order reveals important insights about why the bipolar international system was able to survive for so long, and why the General's legacy remains significant to current French foreign policy.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-016-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    On 11 March 2009, during a speech at l’Ecole Militaire, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that his country would fully reintegrate into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), forty-three years after General Charles de Gaulle had withdrawn France from NATO’s integrated military structure.¹ Despite the objections from officials within Sarkozy’s party, who decried the betrayal of the Gaullist legacy, and the criticisms from the main opposition parties, Sarkozy’s decision hardly amounted to a major turning point for French policy.

    Since the end of the Cold War, military ties between NATO and France had continuously strengthened. Sarkozy’s decision to fully reintegrate...

  6. Part I. The Quest for Great Power Status, 1963–1965

    • Chapter 1 All (not so) Quiet on the Western Front
      (pp. 17-50)

      In early 1963, French president General Charles de Gaulle was about to start a very serious crisis within the Western world. Granted he had proven a thorn in his allies’ side before, but the virulence and unilateral nature of his new challenge against the Anglo-Saxons came as a complete shock. Through his brutal veto against the United Kingdom joining the EEC and his refusal to integrate France’s nuclear force into the MLF, he would single-handedly ruin Kennedy’s grand design for a partnership between Western Europe and the U.S. Although the hysterical reactions to the General’s challenge would temper quickly, the...

    • Chapter 2 The Long Road to Moscow
      (pp. 51-73)

      During the crisis that rocked the Western Alliance in January 1963, rumors surfaced in London that de Gaulle was planning a major deal with the Soviet Union.¹ Based on his writings and political philosophy, as outlined in the Introduction, this scenario certainly appeared plausible. The General believed that the establishment of an independent Western European entity, along with the expected evolution of the Soviet bloc in a peaceful manner, would allow the emergence of a “Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals.” This new Europe could overcome its division inherited from the Cold War based on a new equilibrium between...

    • Chapter 3 A “Shining Light” for the World?
      (pp. 74-94)

      The four years following de Gaulle’s return to power in 1958 marked the end of the French empire. Paris eventually granted independence to its Sub-Saharan African colonies in 1960. The French Community collapsed soon after, before France ended the Algerian War with the Evian Accords in March 1962. The loss of colonies removed a major burden and freed France to focus on its quest for Great Power status, but it left many questions unanswered about how France should redefine its role in the Third World. What did it seek to achieve with its policy of cooperation? How important a role...

  7. Part II. The Rise and Fall of the Gaullist Design, 1966–1968

    • Chapter 4 1966, Gaullist Zenith
      (pp. 97-122)

      On 31 December 1965, in a television address to the French people, de Gaulle announced that, “starting from our rediscovered independence, and not wishing to reverse our alliances and friendships … it is the year of ardor. It is the end of doubts, hesitations and renunciations.”¹

      Since returning to power in 1958, the General had sought to restore his country’s confidence, power, and prestige. Despite setbacks, he had ended the Algerian War, strengthened the economy, and succeeded in making France’s voice heard on the international stage. As he reflected to Peyre-fitte: “This septennat, it was primarily une liquidation. La liquidation...

    • Chapter 5 Illusion of Independence Part 1, January–June 1967
      (pp. 123-148)

      1966 was a high point for French diplomacy. After the withdrawal from NATO, the trip to the Soviet Union, and the solemn condemnation of American policy in Vietnam during the speech in Phnom Penh, de Gaulle seemed more confident than ever that France had reclaimed its Great Power status. He was also convinced that Europe was ripe for dramatic changes, opening up the possibility that the Cold War order might one day be overcome.

      In 1967, however, the French president and his government faced major challenges. In addition to domestic difficulties, Paris faced a series of complex and interdependent negotiations...

    • Chapter 6 Illusion of Independence Part 2, July–December 1967
      (pp. 149-170)

      De Gaulle’s grand design faced its sharpest challenge in the second half of 1967 as it sought to pursue contradictory goals. France believed it could only turn Western Europe into a more independent player if it maintained European unity, especially over international monetary affairs, but that same cohesion was threatened by the Harmel exercise and the divisive British application to join the EEC. Moreover, an East-West rapprochement in Europe depended on France convincing West Germany and the Soviet bloc to significantly improve relations. Not to mention that Paris had already used its two best cards—the withdrawal from NATO and...

    • Chapter 7 The Fall, January–August 1968
      (pp. 171-191)

      On 15 March 1968, journalist Pierre Viansson-Ponté wrote inLe Monde:“What characterizes currently our public life is boredom. French people are bored. They are not involved in the great convulsions that are shaking the world … None of this affects us.”¹ Little did he know that the students and workers of France would soon prove him very wrong. Until May 1968, however, France still appeared as a haven of stability and prosperity. The economy was growing, despite a slight slowdown in the previous year caused by the West German recession, and de Gaulle remained popular in spite of the...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 192-198)

    On 9 September 1968, a few weeks after the Soviet tanks had rolled into Czechoslovakia, de Gaulle gave one of his semiannual press conferences. Unlike the one in January 1963 or even the one in February 1965, this press conference would not go down as a memorable piece of political theater or be defined by shocking declarations. Instead, the mood was austere and pensive, as if the General wanted to reflect on his legacy and achievements. Since 1958, he claimed, France had worked ceaselessly to end the division of Europe into two blocs. In that period, it had finalized reconciliation...

  9. Annexes
    (pp. 199-206)
  10. Endnotes
    (pp. 207-250)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-265)
  12. Index
    (pp. 266-272)