Power, as well as its exercise on the international stage, poses a recurrent problem to France and its leaders. The French Republic is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council since 1945, one of eight officially declared nuclear-armed Powers since 1960, a founding member of the European Union (EU), a founding member of both the G8 and G20. It belongs to many other international organizations, like the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie; it is estimated there are some 175 million French speakers around the world. France therefore appears to possess considerable means of power despite its population being only 62.3 million, which ranks it twentieth in the world, but its economy is the sixth largest in GDP. Throughout a long history, French leaders, whether kings, emperors, or presidents, have expressed the ambition to lead their people into playing a preeminent, if not front-rank, role in international relations. In early 2010, the Revue Défense Nationale, an official publication of the French Defense Ministry, reflected on French strategic interests.1 One section of the essay, ‘Interests, values and responsibilities, the engine of France’s external action’, stated:

The performances aimed at by this engine are well-known: first, in the security interest of France, European defense must be reinforced and the area must be stabilized; [for French] values [to prevail], peace and security must be promoted as well as development while respecting diversity; and finally, regarding its responsibilities, [the international community] must be made to appreciate the pertinence of the French principles in world organization which are based on a strong cultural, institutional and multilateral heritage.2