How Dangerous Is France?

France is one of the leading lights of western democracy Its values of liberty, equality and fraternity laid the basis for modern society’s ideal liberal policies regarding freedom of thought, freedom of faith, and freedom of speech

It was the leading force behind shaping what is now the European Union, and is still one of its most influential members It is a founding member of NATO and has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council With its own nuclear arsenal, strong political influence and an interest in world affairs, just how dangerous is France? How Dangerous Is France? Sixty-five million people live in France When you include its overseas departments and territories, the French Republic has a population of sixty-seven million It has over 200,000 personnel in its standing army, and another 200,000 in reserve

It has 1,300 aircraft in its air force, and nearly 8,000 tanks, armored vehicles and artillery pieces Most importantly, France has the third largest stockpile of nuclear warheads in the world, with around 300 operational warheads Though its military is highly capable, France rarely uses it France had never been involved in more than two armed conflicts simultaneously until 2011, when it committed soldiers to aid its allies in Afghanistan, Libya and the Ivory Coast This contrasts with the USA, which is typically involved in five wars at a time

France denies having any chemical weapons, and is a signatory to treaties banning both biological weapons and nuclear tests Nevertheless, at least one of its four nuclear submarines is on patrol in the Atlantic at any time And in 2006, then-President Jacques Chirac confirmed that France would be willing to use nuclear weapons defensively against its terrorist enemies Terrorism is a major threat to the people of France, and to anyone visiting the country France has endured terror attacks every year since 1971

From the 14th November 2015 to the 15th July 2017, the French government enforced a national state of emergency in response to terror attacks This allowed the government to shut down certain areas without warning, impose curfews, ban certain gatherings of people and close venues, if it believed there was a threat to security Upwards of ten thousand soldiers and even more armed police have been deployed at schools, synagogues, department stores and sites considered to be terrorist targets In the previous two-and-a-half years, nearly 250 people were killed by terror attacks involving explosions and shootings, sometimes at tourist landmarks like the Louvre and Champs Elysees France’s constitution has separated church and state since 1945, and this has made it a likely target for religious extremists

The infamous shooting at the headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015, was motivated by the magazine’s ridiculing of the prophet Muhammad In a similar vein, religious extremists have been provoked by French laws that ban anyone wearing clothing that covers the face in public spaces, and students wearing religious symbols in schools This last law in particular has been interpreted as a ban on the Muslim hijab and khimar Recently, several local authorities banned the burkini on the grounds of its religious connotations This was criticised as sexist, repressive and Islamophobic, further stoking anti-French sentiment amongst terror groups like Al Qaeda and Daesh

However, despite its active role in the War on Terror, France is hardly a threat to other nations It tends to only commit troops to military operations made by the UN and NATO Moreover, the foreign policy of the new President, Emmanuel Macron, is built around non-intervention Although he is openly opposed to Vladimir Putin’s aggressive hacking and military actions in Syria and the Ukraine, Macron has welcomed the Russian President with the stated aim of opening negotiations to end war More importantly, Macron has withdrawn France’s insistence that the conflict in Syria can only end with the removal of President Assad

Indeed, far from being a threat to the rest of the world, in July 2016 the head of France’s internal intelligence agency, Patrick Calvar, said, “Today, France is clearly the most threatened country The question about the threat is not to know ‘if’ but ‘when’ and ‘where’” With this in mind, President Macron is more interested in withdrawing France from wars abroad and beefing up national security On the other hand, Macron’s domestic policies may create danger France has a long history of strong workers’ rights, and unions often go on strike to protect them

Such strikes have even brought down governments in the past Emmanuel Macron wants to reform those rights and weaken the unions Though the reforms aren’t extreme, they are enough that militant protests may break out In a protest in May 2017, right after Macron was elected, workers on strike in central France rigged their factory with booby traps that would explode if authorities tried to arrest them According to those closest to him, the new President plans to pass the reforms over the summer holidays, and use the unions against one another, since their history of disagreeing with each other is almost as long as their history of striking

All the same, it is a gamble that could lead to violence in the streets If violence does erupt, it could be exacerbated by tensions that already exist between the far right and the far left, as well as racial divisions that permeate French society These tensions go largely unacknowledged because their constitution does not recognise any differences based on skin colour, race or religion France is not a danger to the world at large In fact, it is a prime target for aggression from religious extremists, especially Islamist terrorists

Divisions between its political wings, racial groups and workers’ unions make it potentially unstable However, it still remains a hugely influential partner in the European Union and the United Nations – an influence it maintains with one the best militaries in the world

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