Charles de Gaulle dominates the history of 20th Century France. He led his country’s resistance to Nazi Germany, created and guided the institutions of the Fifth Republic, and shaped the structure of modern-day France. On the world stage, however, de Gaulle struggled to assert France’s independence and grandeur, the two driving forces of his foreign policy. This independent study examines three key moments in French foreign relations after de Gaulle became President of the newly created Fifth Republic in 1959. For de Gaulle, ideology was more important than advancing traditional economic, political, and military interests. While these interests factored into de Gaulle’s decision making process, they were always subordinate to his desire to see France regain its place as an independent, influential, and grand power in the world stage. This motivation can be seen in de Gaulle’s relations with the European Community, where he risked the failure of the entire organization to maintain France’s privileged place in Europe. De Gaulle’s prioritization of ideology is also apparent in his pursuit of nuclear weapons, which provided France with military “elite” status, but no real national security benefit. De Gaulle’s decision to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s military structure was also driven by his determination to assert France’s independence in foreign policy, although he got nothing but ire in return.


Shaya, Greg


International Relations


Defense and Security Studies | Diplomatic History | European History | Other International and Area Studies | Political History


de Gaulle, France, NATO, EEC, nuclear weapons, empty chair, force de frappe, granduer, foreign policy

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2014 Katherine A. Carwile