France looks set to cement its return to NATO's military command as early as April, now that it has the backing of the US for French officers to take two top command posts in the alliance.
Locked out in 1966, France wants to rejoin military command
General Charles de Gaulle withdrew French forces from NATO's command in 1966 in a move to both assert his country's military autonomy and protest what he saw as growing US hegemony in Europe.
Now though, French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants France to return to the heart of the alliance -- a step which could be agreed as early as an April summit in Strasbourg to mark NATO's 60th anniversary.
On Friday, Reuters news agency reported that the US has agreed in principle that France should secure two top NATO posts in the event of its return. Officials confirmed that French officers could take over the Allied Command Transformation (ACT) unit in Norfolk, Virginia, as well as the alliance's regional command headquarters in Lisbon, Portugal.
However, details of the agreement have not been finalized as France still has to formally announce its intention to rejoin the military structures.
While France has committed thousands of troops to NATO operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo and elsewhere, a formal return to military command would help defuse lingering tensions over how Europe and the US coordinate defense policy.
Sarkozy has previously argued that France's pull-out had become an outdated symbol of French exceptionalism.