French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday unveiled his nuclear doctrine advocating a more coordinated European Union defence strategy in which France, the bloc’s only post-Brexit nuclear power, and its arsenal would hold a central role.
In a much anticipated speech to military officers graduating in Paris, Macron called on EU member states to play a more direct role in halting a new nuclear arms race, saying they “cannot remain spectators” against a threat to the continent’s collective security.
“In the absence of a legal framework, they could rapidly face a new race for conventional weapons, even nuclear weapons, on their own soil,” said Macron.
Setting out his country’s nuclear strategy in a bid to show leadership a week after nuclear-armed Britain officially exited the EU, Macron highlighted how France sees its nuclear weapons as a deterrent against attacks from belligerent foes.
Macron’s speech comes at a time when long-standing accords on limiting the growth of nuclear arsenals appear increasingly at risk.
The US and Russia have abandoned the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, each blaming the other for breaching its limits, and Washington is threatening to quit the New START arms reduction treaty when it expires next year.
Add to that China’s bid for global sway, there is a strong need for Europe to ensure it does not find itself in the middle of a Cold War-style standoff “which could jeopardise the peace obtained after so many tragedies on our continent”, Macron said.
He warned of “the possibility of a pure and unrestrained military and nuclear competition, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the end of the 1960s”.
“The vital interests of France now have a European dimension,” said Macron, circling back to his central message of a need for a more coordinated European defence policy.
European nations should also insist on being signatories of any new deal to limit the development of new intermediate-range weapons, he noted. “Let us be clear: if negotiations and a more comprehensive treaty are possible… Europeans must be stakeholders and signatories, because it’s our territory” that is most at risk.