French President Emmanuel Macron recenly urged his European partners to discuss the role of strategic nuclear deterrence for defending the continent.
Macron’s Priority: Boost European Partners’ Defense Spending
A prerequisite for Macron remains getting other European countries to increase their defense budgets. As Macron said in a keynote speech on his country’s defense strategy and nuclear weapons doctrine in Paris, France also offers partners more involvement with France’s nuclear deterrence. European partner countries could also take part in French military exercises on nuclear deterrence. Now that the UK left the European Union, France remains the only EU country with its own nuclear weapons arsenal.
Given the current political developments in the United States, Macron considers it imperative that Europe becomes less reliant of Washington and more self-dependent. At the same time, Macron emphasized that this would not put any future cooperation with the US in question. In fact, Macron stated that France was convinced that Europe’s long-term security remains based on a strong alliance with the United States. Nonetheless, however, Macron is convinced that a greater ability for Europeans to act independently is a necessity for the future.
Macron: European States Need To Work Together To Counter Threats
To facilitate the latter, Europe will have to increase its defense spending in the future. States should no longer get involved in complicated debates about funding their military budgets but act decisively instead. Continuously dodging the question and conducting defense procrastination—in view of the current political situation—is incomprehensible to Macron. After all, Europe and France had “a historical role” to play and would have to react to the threats of today and tomorrow. Moreover, Europeans needed to work together to determine what their security interests are and to decide what is necessary to defend the continent.
At the core of Macron’s message was an invitation to the European allies to participate in a “strategic dialogue” and exchange on the role of French nuclear deterrence. Participation in exercises by the French armed forces is also on the table. However, Macron’s offer does not mean that France is inclined to give up control of its nuclear weapons or share responsibility for them. In fact, Paris will remain outside NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group in the future. In fact, France only returned to the integrated command structure of the military alliance in 2009 after a long absence but has yet to participate in the Nuclear Planning Group to date. Macron thus emphasized that his country was committed to its own arsenal of nuclear weapons and it was so not only for its own good but also for the good of the entire continent. According to Macron, nuclear weapons are strengthening Europe’s security solely by their existence and thus have a genuine importance for all the countries of Europe.
Macron: France Still Prefers Global Disarmament
At the same time, Macron also stated that France was continuing to advocate for global disarmament and called on Europeans to advance an “international arms control agenda.” However, Macron emphasized that given a possible nuclear arms race, the EU countries should not become a spectator on the global stage during a time when the US has already exited the INF Treaty it had signed with Russia during the Cold War.
In Berlin a few days ago, a CDU spokesman proposed that Germany—which has pledged to take on a more prominent role other than diplomacy on the world stage until 2030—could indeed participate in France’s nuclear deterrence with its own capabilities and means. However—and contrary to Paris’ intention—the CDU also suggested that in return France should put its nuclear weapons under the joint command of the EU or NATO.
The comments were met with immediate criticism by the opposition. Particularly Greens and The Left have continued their demands for the denuclearization of Europe and stated that no European country should participate in Macron’s plan. Germany’s participation can be considered a sine qua non in this matter, as without Berlin’s participation—which appears highly unlikely under the current German domestic political climate—smaller EU states will be reluctant to accept France’s offer.