To Arms? France Debates Resurrection of National Guard

© AP Photo / Claude ParisA soldier secures the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, southern France, Monday, July 18, 2016, prior to a minute of silence to honor the victims of the Bastille Day attack on Thursday in Nice
A soldier secures the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, southern France, Monday, July 18, 2016, prior to a minute of silence to honor the victims of the Bastille Day attack on Thursday in Nice - Sputnik International
The French President should show more resolve to help recreate his country's National Guard to combat terrorism, French MP Jean-Marie Bockel told Sputnik; however, others believe the proposed move is a mere PR stunt.

French RAID (Research, Assistance, Intervention, Deterrence) police gather near the site in Nice, south-eastern France, on April 27, 2015 - Sputnik International
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In an interview with Sputnik, Jean-Marie Bockel, French senator from the Haut-Rhin Department, said that the French President should make more clear-cut statements on the re-creation of the country's National Guard.

The interview came after a truck rammed into a large crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice on July 14, killing at least 84 people, including children, and injuring hundreds of others.

Bockel is one of the authors of the report which calls for a spate of measures to promote the development of the military reserve and its conversion into a French National Guard.

"Our report was submitted to the Senate Defense Commission chaired by Mr. Raffarin in the morning of July 13. Although the report came ahead of the Nice events, its bottom line was the risk of new terrorist attacks and unrest that may follow. Regrettably, we anticipated such an attack related to our work," he said.

He recalled that the National Guard is a term that has existed in France since the French Revolution. It was established on July 13, 1789, a day prior to the storming of the Bastille, and survived until the military's restructuring following the defeat of the Paris Commune.

According to him, the French National Guard will be a new name to refer to the country's military reserve, which Bockel said has significantly decreased after the abolition of compulsory enlistment. The past few years have seen many stressing the need to restore the military reserve's role in the French army.

"We need a military reserve of National Defense of the French army, namely, the National Guard, which in addition to the resources of the Gendarmerie, will be able to better cover the territory of the country in order to grapple with serious issues," Bockel said, referring to the terrorist attacks. 

Earlier, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urged all French patriots to join the country's operating reserve on a voluntary basis so as to "to increase the maximum capacity of this resource in the next few days."  Right now, the operating reserve includes 9,000 gendarmes and 3,000 police officers.

Speaking to Radio Sputnik, French political analyst Thomas Guenole said that the proposals to restore the French National Guard are nothing but a PR stunt.

"Fighting terrorism is the work of professionals. Ask anyone if he could join the National Guard to combat terrorism – it is not serious. Appealing to patriotism is also irrelevant given that a similar structure already exists in this field, namely, the single reserve," he said.

According to him, a recent parliamentary report showed that deploying people in public places to ensure security does not work because it eats up a huge amount of material resources and human resources, but does not reduce the terrorist threat.

"It would be much more necessary to deal with the real problems, such as the sources of terrorism funding. I mean the fundraising activity which can take place in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait," he said.

Separately, Guenole touched upon the budget and economic policy-related issues which he said currently affect the police and special services in France.

He added that the budgetary policy, including with respect to human resources, leads to " absurd things when, for example, an average cop spends plenty of time on purely administrative work."

Flowers are seen attached to a fence to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice in front of the French embassy in Rome. - Sputnik International
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"We cannot, on the one hand, say that 'absolutely everything will be done to reduce a terrorist threat,' and on the other – to implement an economized police budget. It is an insoluble contradiction in terms of logic," he concluded.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law establishing a National Guard in early July 2016.

A new federal executive body will be engaged in the fight against terrorism and organized crime, as well as provide for emergency policing in the event of an emergency. It will conduct anti-terrorist operations, protect major government facilities and assist the Federal Security Service in policing the country's borders.

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