French nuclear power and European defense, Emmanuel Macron relaunches a thorny debate

French nuclear power and European defense Emmanuel Macron relaunches a

During the interview published in the Ebra group’s newspapers, President Macron said he was ready to open the debate on a European defense which would also include nuclear weapons. For him, this European debate should also incorporate anti-missile defense and long-range weapons fire, in the context of the war in Ukraine.

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The doctrine developed 60 years ago by General Pierre Gallois, father of deterrence, is intangible. It does not provide room for an anti-missile shield. If vital interests are attacked, the response of the France is nuclear fire. The credibility of deterrence rests on this postulate: an enemy who would like to attack us harshly must know that in return, we promise him the apocalypse.

But can nuclear weapons be shared? By definition, no, nuclear weapons are the ultimate tool of sovereignty; the head of state is the only one who can use them. When Emmanuel Macron speaks of a European defense which would also include nuclear weapons, he reiterates his words of October 13, 2022: the vital interests of France, which is the only European country equipped with this weapon, extend to the Old Continent. It remains unclear what this means. As an example, if Germany were attacked, the vital interest would be obvious, but what about a small, more peripheral country. The doctrine does not say so.

It positions itself as the leader of a future European pillar, analysis for RFI of Colonel Peer de Jong, former aide-de-camp at the Élysée. This deterrence could be applied as a form of nuclear umbrella in the event of NATO failure. In any case, President Macron imagines a deterrent that could be offered to European states in the form of a nuclear umbrella such as the Americans designed it in the 1950s. »

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A controversial statement

The French president’s statements immediately drew the wrath of the opposition parties. François-Xavier Bellamy, head of the Les Républicains (LR) list in the 2024 European elections, took offense on Europe 1/CNews: “ It is not being pro-European to move forward in this direction. Because, in fact, it makes no sense, nuclear deterrence is of course based on the mastery of a technology which is very expensive for the French, which is a historic investment of our country. And dispossessing the French is obviously a failure for the President of the Republic. »

Like the right, LFI estimated on Sunday, in a press release from its parliamentary group, that Emmanuel Macron “ has just dealt a new blow to the credibility of the French nuclear deterrent “. This one “ do not share ” And “ under the cover of defending European soil, Macron wants to liquidate French strategic autonomy », criticized LFI deputy Bastien Lachaud, specialist in defense issues, on X.

Jean-Marie Collin, France director of Ican, the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons is also opposed to an expansion of nuclear deterrence. “ This absolute desire of President Macron to want to promote nuclear weapons, which is therefore also a proliferating discourse, is extremely dangerousexplains the France director of Ican to RFI. What does he mean by sharing? Is this putting French nuclear weapons on the territory of different European states? Is this permanent stationing of nuclear weapons? Which would mean, in both cases, increasing the French nuclear arsenal, which would be illegal under international treaties. […]. We must move away from communication and big words to truly find defense solutions that are conventional, acceptable and above all legal under international law. »

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Towards a change in anti-missile defense?

President Emmanuel Macron also raises the issue of anti-missile defense, while Germany has already rallied around twenty other countries in Europe to its European anti-missile shield project, Sky Shield. “ This may mean deploying anti-missile shields, but we must be sure that they block all missiles and deter the use of nuclear power. », Explained Emmanuel Macron.

So why this shift towards anti-missile defense? Firstly, long-range missiles are no longer the prerogative of the great powers, we see this in the Middle East where a certain number of terrorist groups now have them and responding to potential attacks with nuclear strikes is not necessarily relevant, a question of scale. Secondly, Germany aims to build an anti-missile shield for Europe based on the model of “ iron dome » Israeli, but France, the leading missile manufacturer, is not associated with it, so there is an industrial aspect, Paris cannot stay away from such a structuring project.

Read alsoFrance displays its deterrence capabilities with the test of its new nuclear missile in March 2022