France set to take NATO deputy leadership from UK after Brexit

  • By Heyami Alghatta

The UK looks set to loose it’s deputy leadership status within NATO following Brexit with France strong favourites for succession

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The UK has held the second most senior position in NATO (formed in 1949) since 1951 with the USA holding the most senior role.

  • 1949 | Founding Members:
    • Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, UK, USA
  • 1950s | Expansion:
    • Greece, Turkey, Germany (West Germany followed by unified Germany in 1990)
  • 1980s and 1990s | Expansions
    • Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland
  • 2000s | Expansion
    • Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Albania, FYR Croatia, FYR Slovenia

Nato is a seven and a half million strong joint military force largely held as responsible for a large number of wars, war crimes and illegal regime changes throughout the world. The union is meant to create a mutual and passive protection from outside threats, however has acted largely as aggressors in the Balkans, Middle-East and Africa and often seen as highly hostile to Russia. In early 2017 Turkey is said to be debating leaving NATO in favour of joining a Chinese lead eastern alliance.

France is reportedly hoping to take the UK’s deputy senior position in NATO amid claims the UK’s role within the alliance could be at threat after Brexit.

The UK has held the position of deputy supreme allied commander,  the second most senior military post in the alliance, since 1951 but this is likely to be transferred to a member of the EU under options being discussed, the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) said.

The role is central to securing NATO manpower and equipment for certain EU missions organised under so called “Berlin-plus” arrangements.

“There is already some discussion of the possibility that the assignment of the position . . . might have to be transferred to a NATO member that is a member of the EU.” Rusi deputy director-general Professor Malcolm Chalmers wrote in a briefing on the UK’s post-Brexit foreign and security policy.

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The Times reported claims that Paris sent an unofficial delegation to Washington last autumn to convince US officials that French armed forces were better placed than their British counterparts to be the US special ally in Europe after Brexit.

The French team “were at pains to point out how useful the French military could be as an ally and their track record in getting things done in troublespots where the US was not as strong as it wished to be”, a source with knowledge of the September mission told the newspaper.

 “They also pointed out that, after Brexit, they would be the only EU country with this capability.”

The post is currently held by General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, who will hand over to Lieutenant-General Sir James Everard in March. A UK Ministry of Defence spokesman told The Times: “We will continue to play a leading role in European security. This includes providing Nato’s deputy supreme allied commander for Europe.”

A think-tank suggested a solution might be the creation of a second equivalent position within NATO or the UK swapping its role for another senior one, such as chief of staff.

Whilst the consequences of losing the role are likely to be “relatively limited”, the “clear message” is that “the UK’s role and influence within NATO cannot be entirely ring-fenced from the consequences of Brexit”.

The think-tank said Theresa May should refrain from using Britain’s role as the leading Western European military and intelligence power as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations.

It follows suggestions that the Prime Minister could use the UK’s critical role in the continent’s security as a trump card in divorce talks to secure a favourable post-Brexit trade deal, potentially including access to the single market. However experts have suggested such blackmail attempts could anger EU members and backfire actually blocking UK access to not only fiscal markets but intelligence and security pacts.

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