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What is Akila, the mission in which the Charles de Gaulle is participating under NATO command?

A first.

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What is Akila, the mission in which the Charles de Gaulle is participating under NATO command?

A first. The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle leaves the harbor of Toulon, its traditional home port, this Monday to be under operational command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from April 26 to May 10. More precisely, the Charles de Gaulle is part of the Naval Air Group (GAN), responsible for the Akila mission in the Mediterranean Sea. Allied American, Spanish and Italian units will also participate in the mission, according to the Ministry of the Armed Forces. The aircraft carrier, commissioned in May 2001, had already been engaged in NATO operations but had always remained under French control.

The Akila mission (from the Latin aquila meaning "eagle") brings together fifteen States in total and is placed under the authority of the StrikforNato maritime staff (Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO). 'NATO, in French), a NATO naval command active since 2004. In the context of the war in Ukraine, Akila is part of a logic of reassurance of the NATO mandate, which ensures the security of States here members through a policy of deterrence. It therefore reflects the "common commitment (of the members, Editor's note) to strengthen cooperation and ensure interoperability", according to Farah Dakhlallah, NATO spokesperson, who told AFP on April 11 that the operation takes place in a “difficult security environment”.

French involvement "in the Alliance's activities in the Mediterranean and throughout Europe" makes it possible to "strengthen the European defensive and dissuasive posture" and to "contribute to collective security" while supporting "operations aimed at promoting regional stability,” explains the Ministry of the Armed Forces on its website. Since the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army, NATO has significantly increased its maritime presence in Europe. Furthermore, France has deployed more than 1,500 soldiers to the Ukrainian-Romanian border, as part of the NATO Aigle mission, launched in February 2022 and bringing together French, Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourg soldiers.

France's decision to include the Charles de Gaulle in this mission and to accept that it comes under the command of the Atlantic Alliance has provoked strong criticism from certain political parties. For example, the founder of La France insoumise Jean-Luc Mélenchon was skeptical to say the least, evoking a feeling of “sadness” and denouncing “displayed vassalization” on his X account.

For the rebellious leader, France risks losing control of its national defense because of its involvement in NATO. The former presidential candidate already defended this position in a speech given five years earlier: NATO is “a military coalition that we do not lead,” he said. During the 2022 presidential campaign, Jean-Luc Mélenchon also proposed an exit from the organization, before reviewing his program after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

For his part, Jean-Lin Lacapelle, spokesperson for the National Rally (RN), also criticized the event on the social network: “The only French aircraft carrier is under NATO command: the consequences of the policy of abandoning sovereignty with Macron. Looking forward to entrusting the rest of our Defense policy to Brussels.”

However, the president of the RN Jordan Bardella affirmed that there was no question of leaving the Alliance as long as the war in Ukraine was ongoing, during an interview organized by the media Politico and the think tank Europa Nova on March 28.

In an interview with Le Parisien, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu responded to these criticisms. It specifies in particular that the aircraft carrier will participate in “a training and reassurance mission in the Mediterranean” and that the same applies to “French fighter planes carrying out patrols from Lithuania for the protection of space air force of the Baltic countries” or even “soldiers of the army in Romania”, once again referring to NATO missions. “They come under operational supervision of the Alliance, but are at no time outside of French political and military control,” he insisted.

Also read: 75 years of the North Atlantic Treaty: how NATO became an alliance of 32 states

France is one of the 12 founding members of the organization created in 1949, at the dawn of the Cold War. Paris left the integrated military command of the Alliance in 1966, by decision of General de Gaulle, with the aim of asserting its desire for independence vis-à-vis the American ally. But in 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy re-engaged the country in NATO's military command, without however joining the Alliance's nuclear plans group.

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