Specifics of French Nuclear Policy at the Beginning of the 21st Century

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2017-61-4-81-90
P. Timofeev (p.timofeyev@gmail.com),
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow 117997, Russian Federation

Abstract. During the Cold War period, France as well as the USA and the USSR had its own nuclear triad consisted of strategic bombers (from 1964), ballistic missiles and nuclear submarines (from 1971). Today, only four nuclear submarines “Le Triomphant”, equipped with 16 ballistic missiles M 45 or M 51 that can be launched suddenly from the distance 6000-9000 meters provide nuclear deterrence and protect France’s independency. The second component of French nuclear forces are “Rafale” fighters: until 2023, France should have received 294 “Rafales”, including 60 as nuclear weapons carriers with ASMP-A missile. French nuclear strategy is reflected in two “White Books on the Defense”, published in 2008 and in 2013. According to it, the key change in the world is a deficit of stability: the world did not grow more stable, strategic uncertainty allows France to become a potential target for foreign missiles. Main threats for French interests are concentrated in an axis: Atlantic Ocean – Mediterranean Sea – Indian Ocean, the heart of communications between America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Five components of French nuclear strategy are forecasting, threat prevention, deterrence, defense of borders and intervention. Forecasting is considered to be a priority, but just in case nuclear forces could be used abroad in independent French operations and collective operations. French nuclear forces contribute in common defense concepts of the EU and NATO but their potential use is conditioned by a French president’s decisions in every case. After the end of the Cold War Russia was considered in Paris much more as a “disturbing neighbor” than as a “potential enemy”. While French experts had recommended to “hold and constantly enforce” relations with Russia, the Ukrainian crisis of 2014–2015 proved these wishes were not implemented. But even now it is hard to imagine France using its nuclear arsenal to press Moscow. After the end of the Cold War France reduced its nuclear arsenal. During 1992–2016, the number of nuclear warhead was reduced from 540 to 300. Paris pulled in financing of nuclear field, and after 1996 interrupted nuclear tests. At the same time, France cannot be considered as a strong follower of nuclear disarmament: Paris opposes not nuclear race, but enlargement of the “nuclear club”. 

Keywords: France, nuclear weapons, deterrence, disarmament, Russian-French relations, AMB, NATO, EU


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For citation:
Timofeev P. Specifics of French Nuclear Policy at the Beginning of the 21st Century. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2017, vol. 61, no. 4, pp. 81-90. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2017-61-4-81-90

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