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News | April 2, 2018

Q&A: French vice chief of defense, USSTRATCOM commander discuss collaboration

By USSTRATCOM Public Affairs U.S. Strategic Command

Admiral Phillipe Coindreau, vice chief of defense, French Armed Forces, visited U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) headquarters, March 26.


While here, Coindreau toured the command’s global operations center and participated in bilateral discussions with U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of USSTRATCOM, other senior leaders and subject matter experts. Their conversations centered on continuing collaboration between the United States and France.


“This cooperation is needed because we are both involved in operations,” said Coindreau. “But I [would] add that we are also both engaged for peace in the world. My coming here – invited by Gen. John Hyten – is because of the level of cooperation we have with the U.S. Armed Forces. We share the same [goal], which is peace in the world.”


Hyten agreed with Coindreau, noting that France is “our oldest ally in the world, and one of our greatest strengths is our friends.


“It’s important to always sit down and talk with your friends and allies, and make sure you understand the challenges we face in the world,” he added. “As he said, our goal is peace. Working toward that is a hard job, and we have to work closely together.”


Following the engagement, Coindreau and Hyten sat down to share their thoughts on the discussions and a variety of topics including 21st century deterrence and ways to improve collaboration between allies. Below is a readout of their Q&A session:


Q: Given your responsibilities in your respective roles, how are interactions like this beneficial to USSTRATCOM and France?


Adm. Coindreau: My role in France is the same role as [U.S. Air Force] Gen. Paul Selva [vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff], so I’m not immediately in charge of deterrence or the subjects here that we spoke about. However, in France we have a very centralized command structure: deterrence, missile defense, cyber, intelligence. It is important to me to have these exchanges with Gen. Hyten to compare our organizations [and] share concerns because I think we face similar challenges at different scale.


Gen. Hyten: The French military has many missions that are U.S. Strategic Command missions. When you tick down the missions that Adm. Coindreau just ticked down – the nuclear deterrence mission, space mission, missile defense – we need to make sure we understand how each other thinks when it comes to those. We need to understand how to better partner in space, for example. We’ve had a fairly long partnership in space that has improved greatly over the last few years, and we want to make sure we continue to improve that, we continue to work across all our mission areas to assure each other that we have capabilities the other can count on, but also to make sure there are no misunderstandings about what our capabilities are.


Q: How do engagements like these support 21st century strategic deterrence and global security?


Adm. Coindreau: We are both engaged in peace in the world. For France, the 21st century will be an issue because we need to renew our seaborne and airborne components of nuclear deterrence. It is important to share with the U.S. what will be the future in the 21st century, to build the right assets for peace in the world.


Gen. Hyten: When we look at deterrence, deterrence in the 21st century is different than it was in the 20th century, but we don’t really understand it all yet. Each nation has a different view of what deterrence means. It starts with nuclear in both of our countries, but the broader view of how all the pieces come together to achieve our objectives in the world is what we spent a lot of time today talking about. Understanding what that means, making sure we have a common vocabulary, making sure we can discuss things and understand – that’s one of the important reasons to sit down and talk together so we can understand what that really means as we go forward into the challenges we face in this century.


Q: How can U.S. Strategic Command better partner with the French military to sustain strategic deterrence?


Adm. Coindreau: I think the U.S. is really doing a lot in that field, and I would like to think Gen. Hyten and the meetings today are a symbol of what the U.S. is doing to ease France’s and other allies’ [efforts] to work closely with them on those matters. Those matters are among the most serious in our armed forces. I think we should consider all of them very seriously and the U.S. Armed Forces are providing great assistance to us in that field. Such partnership and meetings, formal or informal, allow France (and other allies) to improve the global nuclear strategic culture in order to better understand the world in being.


Gen. Hyten: We discussed a number of areas today. That certainly starts with our sovereign nuclear capabilities, both the French and the U.S., to make sure we understand those pieces. I think we have an opportunity to really do some significant things to improve our nation’s security, especially with regard to our activities in space. Space is an area where we and all space-faring nations – France and the U.S. being two of the preeminent space-faring nations – we have a desire to have a safe environment to operate in, in space. That takes a lot of effort, it’s been an effort that nations have done by themselves for a long time. I think the best opportunity in the future is going to be doing that in a combined role, and I think the United States and France are very well postured to improve that partnership as we go into the coming years.


Q: What was the most significant thing you learned or discussed during Adm. Coindreau’s visit?


Adm. Coindreau: I learned a lot, first of all. What I learned, and Gen. Hyten focused on that aspect, is the importance of integration and the fact that cyber, space and nuclear deterrence are three domains which you should consider as a whole. We had a very good discussion about the situation all over the world and the next issues in the future. That was the best for me.


Gen. Hyten: The most important thing we discussed is the importance of integration. Global integration and the integration of these domains is not well-understood and it is essential to our future common defense. That’s something we’re going to have to work on, I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that we have a whole lot more in common than we have different.


Q: Is there anything you would like to add?


Adm. Coindreau: I would like to thank John Hyten for welcoming [me] and, more broadly, [his] team for welcoming [me]. This is my first visit to U.S. Strategic Command, it is my first visit to the middle of the United States. We had very fruitful meetings today – very frank and very open – and this is best for two countries that are working together.


Gen. Hyten (to Coindreau): I can’t tell you how much honor you show us by coming to the middle of the country to visit us. It means a tremendous amount not just to me, but to the entire command, to have you walk into our headquarters, sit down and have open, frank discussions about difficult topics and really looking at somehow trying to make this world a more peaceful place. So thank you very much.


U.S. Strategic Command has global responsibilities assigned through the Unified Command Plan that include strategic deterrence, nuclear operations, space operations, cyberspace operations, joint electromagnetic spectrum operations, global strike, missile defense, and analysis and targeting.


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